Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez And His Happy Organ   39 comments

Teenage boys in the 1950s were not that much different from now in at least one respect — risqué double-entendres usually made us snicker and dig an elbow into our friends’ sides. That might have helped explain why a relatively unknown keyboardist named Dave Cortez rocketed to the top of the charts in 1959 with a song called “The Happy Organ.” (Video below.)

Not that Cortez wasn’t talented — the Detroit native (whose real name was David Cortez Clowney) had spent most of the decade as a pianist and vocalist, first for an R&B group called Ember, and then for a very good one called the dbcPearls. But even though the band had a following, real success eluded him until the day he sat down to noodle around on a Hammond organ in the Clock Records studio. So the story goes, he’d lost his voice earlier so ended up recording a catchy and clever instrumental based on the old song “Shortnin’ Bread.”

When “The Happy Organ” began to climb the charts, Cortez was on tour with Little Anthony and the Imperials. It didn’t take long for the record company to pull him back and begin promoting him as a new star, and his record soon shot to number one on the pop charts.

Over the next couple of years Cortez followed up with a number of recordings, some on piano but mostly on organ. Included among them were obviously similar pieces such as “Whistling Organ” and “Organ Bounce,” but even though many of his tunes were infectious and fun, he didn’t have another real hit until 1962’s “Rinky Dink,” which did slip into the top ten.

Cortez’s only other recording success was “Someone Has Taken Your Place” in 1973, and he pretty much faded from the spotlight after that. There doesn’t appear to be much info about him in recent years but hopefully he’s still around — and still happy.dbccd

(Video no longer available from source, but I’ve added another version in the ‘comments’ below.)

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Posted April 15, 2009 by BG in Boomers, Music, Nostalgia, Oldies, Retirement, Seniors, Video

39 responses to “Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez And His Happy Organ

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  1. I have always been of the opinion with regard to this particular song, The Happy Organ, that its success was based more so on its appeal to our parents in 1959 than on us kids. Rock and Roll was exploding and the ‘contemporary’ music of the past couple of decades was slowly fading into obscurity. This song had a flavor of “years gone by” with regard to its sound and a real appeal to the older adults, thus adding to its push up the charts by an older generation. Dave was a nice, clean cut kid with talent galore which added, I think, to his appeal to the older generation.

    Certainly a debatable opinion as relates to this piece of musical history but I don’t think, if left to stand alone among its 1959 musical contemporaries, it would have fared as well without major support from an older generation.

  2. You might be right, Alan. Personally, I don’t remember my parents having much to say about the music I listened to in those days, but it’s pretty much accepted that parents in general were more comfortable with “safer” music.

  3. I can tell you that Dave Cortez is doing fine, because I ran into him at Penn Station this past Saturday. I’m with a band that occasionally performs at Penn Station and Dave came right up to me as I was waiting for the band before us to conclude.

    Dave looks great – he’s a very stylish looking gent. According to him, he doesn’t play out much anymore but still plays a lot of keyboards at home “for myself.”

    Steve Baldwin (of THE MEETLES).

  4. Appreciate the info, Steve.

  5. thks steve…for confirming that Dave Baby cortez is still alive and kicking, i will also confirm it, becuase he’s my dad, and i just talked to him ….lololol…..and he travels through penn station a lot, i only wish that the industry would give him his props. he had other minor hits after the happy organ, and even appeared on american bandstand. i think he would proud to know that people are still talking about him and wondering where he is. good luck to you and your band.

    taryn clowney sheffield
  6. Thanks for writing, Taryn. Always nice to hear from someone close to the artist.

  7. Thank you Taryn for the post. I’m a lifelong fan of your dad. I produce NYC Cable TV shows that interviews artists, people…Promotes organizations etc, etc…If your father wants to be interviewed on TV, I’m sure his many fans would love to see him. I can be reached at 1(212) 561-1914…
    Take care…:)

  8. I just went on a search for “Dave’s Special” because it was always a favorite of mine. It’s great to see that DB Cortez is still around. I’d travel and spend bucks to see him anywhere near me.

    Nuge
    Southern Missouri

  9. Does anyone know if New York Jets # 87, David Cortez Clowney IV is Dave “Baby” Cortez/Clowney’s grandson or great-grandson or something? There is no mention of DB on any of Clowney’s bios or anything. Just wondered.

  10. I dunno, but since his daughter Taryn has commented here before, maybe she’ll visit us again. She would certainly know the answer!

  11. Hey Tom—yes that is my nephew, and Dave baby cortez’s grandson, we are very proud of David IV as he continues on with The Jets—we are a very private family, and no one is trying to cash-in on anyone elses name, so we count our blessing and celebrate life. Thanks for making the connection…lol

    taryn clowney sheffield
  12. Thanks Taryn !

    Very cool – I’m a long time DJ here in New Jersey, and
    was doing some research on your Dad and found the
    connection. Google can be fun. I’ll keep the secret
    and won’t mention it on New Jersey 101.5 ! lol

  13. thks tom….its so cool to know that people like yourself are still checking for my dad, i tell him all about my posting and what people are saying, and i will also tell him about you…

    taryn clowney sheffield
  14. You worked w/ Buddy Lucas??He & the “Gone All Stars put out “7-11″ in ’56…I had a copy burned in my house..would like to try to get another copy…GREAT!!!!! Shag song.. please, let me know where I might find it. Thanks…Oh, LOVE YOUR MUSIC!!!!

  15. Hi all, I’ve just found this forum and I’m rapt I have been playing the Happy Organ by Dave Baby Cortez since it first come out and I’ve never tired of the song (ever) I’m now 62 I guess Dave’s 72 now and it’s great to know he is still arond and has family Hi Taryn I have playe this song to everybody over the years and have often been surprised that people hadn’t heard of it, but they love it one mate of mine who plays keyboards on a P&O cruise liner had me do a copy for him to learn so he can play it on ship and he said it goes over great evrytime with request for it all the time all the best to everybody from Sydney Australia. Chris

  16. Dear Taryn,
    I met your Dad in the mid 1960’s when he had his studio downstairs next to Lloyd Price’s club “The Turntable” (the old Birdland) on Broadway & 52nd,. Street. I would stop by on occasion to chat with him about music. I would love to speak with him once again after all these years if he’d like to say hello, although he probably won’t remember me until I give him a description of the time. Today I am married to “Little Jimmy Scott”. Please pass on my email to your Dad: jimmyscottbookings@cox.net Much appreciated.
    Peace & Blessings,
    Jeanie
    *****

  17. Dear Taryn,
    I can’t believe I found this site as I have been a fan since The Happy Organ..which was a big hit here in Australia too. Over the years I have bought several of his albums and quite a few singles…funny ,I always liked Love Me As I Love You almost as much as The Happy Organ…it’s a real contrast.Back then ,for a poverty stricken teenager,it was a considerable bonus if the B side of a record appealed…you got twice as much enjoyment for your dollar!!

    I have just retired from full time to part time radio here in Australia’s capital city, Canberra and ,as such,still conduct interviews with artists like your Dad. I realise that there is a queue beginning to form but I too would love to pre record an on air chat with him if he can spare the time and has the inclination.
    Kindest regards,
    David

  18. Hello Taryn,
    Thank you for the emails you sent me and passing the info onto your Dad from me.
    Blessings to you & your Dad. :>)
    Best Always,
    Jeanie
    *****

  19. Just came in after listening to Dave Baby Cortez’s album, “the Isley Brothers way” on T-Neck.
    What a funky funky jam that is, and same with the classic you posted. I never noticed that wild guitar coming in at the end on the radio. Is that extended slightly for a reissue? Peace.

  20. Hello everyone—thanks for all of your comments about my dad, he doesnt has use of a computer, but i pass on all of you guys comments to him, and he is just tickled to death that people are still interested in his music.

  21. Taryn, I am so glad i found this web site, I been trying to find a way to contact your father in regards to a personal matter. I need for you to contact me asap. Thanks a bunch. diazcld929@sbcglobal.net

  22. I was a kid in Australia when Rinky Dink and Happy Organ were playing – and I bought the records and still have them.

    I live in Southern California now, and I’d love to attend a concert for DB Cortez – why not do the Troubador in West LA? It’d be popular.

  23. How wonderfull to hear that there are so many Dave “Baby” Cortez fans out there just like me. I used to buy everything I could find by Dave when I was a kid. I’d check out both sides, and always found each was great. I remember buying the Clock material and later the Chess singles. I have another 45 on Fiesta. Since the writer on all of these was listed as David Clowney, I quickly figured out my hero’s real name. I wonder Taryn, if Dave realizes that so many of us who were big fans in the fifties and sixties are still listening to his remarkable music today. Please let him know what a big part he has played in our lives.

    Many thanks,

    Brian

    brian mc fadden
  24. Hi Brian,

    Thks for your comments about my Dad. He is very aware of all the people that still admire his style of music. Although he’d rather stay out of the limelight, he is amazed at some of you guys comments…i print and send him everything…lol…i recently found some of his music that i had been looking for myself, he seems to be big over in Africa, and other third world countries. and we are still very proud of his accomplishments…of course to you guys he’s a legend…to me he’s just my Daddy…..lolol…thks again

  25. There has been so much activity on this post that I thought I’d again try to post a video of the song. (The previous one was removed at its source.)

  26. Hope all of Dave’s fans were at The Bell House in Brooklyn 11-11-11 to see the fantastic performance with Lonnie Youngblood…and buy the newly-recorded LP on Norton Records. Phenomenal!!!

  27. Allow me to add my thanks to David “Dave Baby Cortez” Clowney for his vocals with the Valentines and Five Pearls, all his work arranging and playing piano for the Jesters, and his instrumentals as Dave Baby Cortez. A vastly underrated artist.

  28. Hello Everyone…just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your comments about my dad. its great see there’s still lots of love for him

    • Dear Taryn

      During the 1960s I collected record charts (surveys) from CHUM Radio 1050 in Toronto, Ontario.

      Now that I am a retired teacher living near Toronto, I am collecting autographs of music stars listed on my charts. Is it possible to mail Dave a couple of charts for his autograph?

      Richard Mills
      Milton, Ontario
      Canada

      e-mail: rmills4@cogeco.ca

  29. One question for Taryn-Would you ask your dad if he remembers anything about the Caronators who recorded on the Clock label? I thought one of the members looked a little like him. Thanks.

  30. One more vote for the flip side-what a double-sided treat from David.

    Love Me As I Love You

  31. doo-wopphalloffame of america seeking contact with dave baby cortez clowney..please call 978-256-7968..harvey robbins, president

  32. My interest is more in the instrument itself. Was it a Hammond B3 and Leslie speaker common in the day? If so, were there any modifications to the Leslie? Mods are almost the rule rather than the exception, so I was just wondering.

  33. Don’t know, TT. Maybe one of our GMC visitors will respond.

  34. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll
    have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    stand-up classes los angeles
    • My apologies to the writer of this comment if I’m wrong, but I think this is one of that new breed of spam that keeps showing up. It looks real at first, but the wording is not specific to the subject matter and there’s always a link to someone selling something. That being the case, I’ve deactivated the link but left the comment. (Which I’ve also done on a few others elsewhere on the GMC.)

  35. Still trying to connect with Dave regarding an autograph request on a 1960s era record survey from a Toronto radio station.

  36. Hi Richard…will pass this info on to my Dad again..thank you

  37. Thanks Richard

    Taryn Clowney-Sheffield

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