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DANNY FLORES (1929 - 2006)

Chicano rocker and singer, Danny Flores, who had a run away hit with his unforgettable 1957 song, "Tequila", passed away of pneumonia on September 19th, 2006 at Huntington Beach Hospital. He was 77. Professionally, Flores was a man of few words. Actually, he's best known for just this one: "Tequila!" That was the sole lyric sung/shouted by Flores on the No. 1 hit single of the same name, and it was a song that Flores never got tired of playing or listening to throughout his life.

Born in Santa Paula, Flores was a young teen when his family moved to Long Beach in the 1940s. His musical career had already included gigs as the guitarist in church when he was five and playing Mexican music in a trio at 14. In Long Beach, he formed a band called the 3-D Ranch Boys and embarked upon his lifelong career as a musician, playing local clubs and bars catering to a rough blue-collar crowd that bestowed the nickname "The Mexican Hillbilly" on Flores.

His biggest hit came fairly quickly and through the back door. In 1957, going by the name of Chuck Rio, he formed the Champs, which included guitarist Dave Burgess and such later-celebrated stand-ins as Seals and Crofts and Glen Campbell. Burgess wrote a tune for group called "Train To Nowhere" and the band needed a B-side for the single, so they used an instrumental tune written by Rio/Flores. Flores didn't have a name for the number, but his bandmates, noting his affinity for tequila, suggested the title that would stick. Flores' "dirty sax" and his exuberant hollering of "Tequila!" at regular intervals made the song an instant hit, while "Train to Nowhere" went pretty much as advertised. "Tequila" went to No. 1 in just three weeks and the Champs became the first instrumental group to go to the top spot with their first release. The song went on to win a Grammy in 1959 and Danny Flores went from "Mexican Hillbilly" to "Godfather of Latino Rock" overnight. And he played the song at every opportunity for the next 40 years.

Throughout much of the '70s, Flores was all over the local nightclub scene, playing regular gigs at the Iron Mask in Lakewood and the Village Inn in the Los Altos area of Long Beach, by which time he had added a singer, Sharee, who would be his wife for 33 years until his death. Although the couple moved to Westminster, they still performed in and around Long Beach, and always played "Tequila," usually several times a night. 'I can honestly tell you he never got tired of playing that song,' says Sharee from the Flores' home in Westminster. And the song never waned in popularity. It's been used in countless TV shows and in more than 20 feature films, getting a huge bump from its big part in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

'After that, we got shows all over the U.S.,' says Sharee. 'We played the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, the Greek, the Shrine, Caesar's Palace in Vegas. All these younger people who hadn't heard it were suddenly in love with the song. Danny was just so proud of it.' The tragic angle is that Flores didn't make much money from the wildly profitable song, having (it is argued) signed off the royalty rights in the 1960s. Overseas royalties, however, continue to come in, and Sharee, while determined to carry on the fight to regain the rights to "Tequila," is far from bitter about the potential millions in losses. 'We had the best life we could ever hope for,' she says, still choked up over the loss of her husband. 'When I met Danny, he made all my dreams come true. In all our 33 years, we were never apart. I wish you could tell people how much we loved each other.'

Flores is also survived by seven children from previous marriages: Jimmy, Cynthia, Michael, Sonjia, Ricky, Sheila and Kellye, as well as 15 grandchildren.

(Tim Grobaty, www.xispas.com)

Daniel Flores (Chuck Rio), musician, songwriter and singer:
born 1929 - died September 19th, 2006