Danny Flores, 77, who played the saxophone and growled the title word on the 1950s hit song "Tequila!", died Tuesday of pneumonia at Huntington Beach Hospital.
One of the best-known rock 'n' roll instrumentals of all time, "Tequila!" was released in 1958, spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and won a Grammy Award in 1959 for best rhythm and blues performance. Flores performed the Latin-tinged number for 40 years.
"I can honestly tell you he never got tired of playing that song," said his wife, Sharee.
Born to Mexican field workers in Santa Paula, Flores learned to play guitar and saxophone as a youngster. He moved with his family to Long Beach and played in bands using the name Chuck Rio.
In 1957, Flores was playing with rockabilly singer Dave Burgess in a group called the Champs -- named for Gene Autry's horse, Champion -- for Autry's Challenge record label. "Tequila!" was the last song of a recording session, dashed off as the B side of a single called "Train to Nowhere."
Flores claimed that he wrote the song but inadvertently signed away the royalty rights in the late '60s. It has been used in numerous commercials and television shows and became popular with a new generation after it was used in the 1985 movie "Pee-wee's Big Adventure.""
In recent years, Flores, who lived in Westminster, performed as Chuck Rio and the Champs.