Digging deep into the vaults this time and coming up with 21 tracks of previously unheard honkin' & twangin' from the fabulous Champs.
Tequila? We've all heard the record a million times, but it never loses its compelling freshness. It is one of the best-loved oldies ever - catchy, danceable, so memorable. Not only that but the record spawned a new line in the music business, the instrumental - The Champs' Tequila - was to rock'n'roll what Bill Doggett's Honky Tonk was to R&B. After Tequila hit all the #l spots in 1958, the same Latin-based rhythms were used to drive the follow-ups El Rancho Rock and Chariot Rock to comfortable positions in the US charts. Sales started to fall away but not the quality, as is evidenced in our recent CD, The Early Singles.Now, The Later Singles takes us into the 1960s and somewhat unknown territory. The CD kicks off appropriately enough with Tequila Twist (here the correct version with vocal overdubs) followed by the combo's biggest 1960s hit, Limbo Rock at #40 in 1962. Dave Burgess, the founder and leader of the Champs, told me recently that Limbo Rock was written by top West Coast session guitarist and producer Billy Strange, who later had fair-sized hits with "The James Bond Theme" and "Goldfinger". Originally, the number had a lyric and was called Monotonous Melody. The song was pitched by Ricky Nelson's publisher to Dave Burgess, who at the time was looking for something with the popular limbo-beat for the Champs. With a few modifications Monotonous Melody (sans lyrics) became Limbo Rock-, then the wheel turned full circle when new limbo-themed lyrics were added by Chubby Checker and an international hit was born. The follow-up Limbo Dance nudged the charts at #97, also in 1962, and that was it chart-wise for The Champs. Once the excitement of the limbo records had died down, Burgess decided to stop touring and concentrate on music publishing for the great Gene Autry - who had founded The Champs' label Challenge Records in 1957, and whose 'wonder horse' had given the group its name! Burgess's place in The Champs was taken by a young guitarist who had been discovered when he went back stage for autographs at a Champs gig in Albuquerque, New Mexico - the future country star Glen Campbell. Already The Champs had been carrying, since the first tour in 1958, two future rock superstars, Jim Seals and Dash Crofts. "I signed them up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, they-were great", says Burgess. Later, renowned surf guitarist Jerry Cole joined the band. Dave Burgess still went into the studios with The Champs, but once the touring slowed down so did the singles. The records between 1963 and 1965 have remained absurdly anonymous and rare until this collection of A & B sides. Surely tunes like That Did It, Roots and the infuriating Nik Nak. (try to stop whistling this number after hearing it!) - could have been big hits even in an era dominated by surf instrumentals. Apart from Glen Campbell and Seals & Croft, such luminary West Coast session men were used as saxophonist Plas Johnson (he plays on Limbo Rock), guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and drummers Hal Blaine and Eart Palmer. The release of this CD means that Ace has the best all-round collection of recordings by The Champs anywhere, and in sparkling sound from the original master tapes: