Threefer: Jazz Covers of “Tequila”


Happy National Tequila Day! To commemorate this special day, we are bringing you three great jazz covers of the classic Mexican-flavored rock instrumental “Tequila” by The Champs. Written by Danny Flores and credited to his stage name Chuck Rio, “Tequila” was a surprise hit in 1958, topping both the pop and R&B charts.

We hope you enjoy these jazzy takes on “Tequila.” You’re probably wondering if the Pee-wee Herman dance works for these. 360°Sound put that to the test, and yes, they most certainly do. We didn’t save the footage of said test, because, like Large Marge, some things are better left unseen…


Wes Montgomery

From the 1966 album Tequila

Wes Montgomery is one of the most important and influential jazz guitarists in history. The Indianapolis native was self-taught and would pluck the strings with his thumb instead of a pick, creating a softer sound. His playing style, along with his move to covering pop hits during his mid-‘60s run with Verve, helped him enjoy more commercial success. (His earlier albums on Pacific Jazz and Riverside feature more straight-ahead fare). Montgomery didn’t just cover “Tequila,” he named his 1966 album after it, complete with a bottle and shot glass on the cover. Sadly, two years later Montgomery would die of a heart attack at age 45.

Larry Carlton

From the 1983 album Friends

Larry Carlton is another legendary jazz guitarist with crossover appeal. Before recording 1983’s Friends, Carlton had already made a name for himself as an ace session player, lending his sweet tone to tracks by Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, and many others. Carlton’s smooth, fusion-y take on “Tequila” features scatting from Al Jarreau.

David Sanborn

From the 2003 album Time Again

A pioneer of smooth jazz, saxman David Sanborn possesses one of the most distinctive alto tones, a couple bars and you know it’s him. On “Tequila,” taken from the excellent Verve LP, Time Again, Sanborn is joined by a killer rhythm section in bassist Christian McBride and drummer Steve Gadd. [Editor’s note: This is the fastest of the three covers and perhaps the most suitable for the Pee-wee dance.]


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