Dave "Baby" Cortez

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Dave "Baby" Cortez
Birth name David Cortez Clowney
Born (1938-08-13) August 13, 1938 (age 78)
Detroit, Michigan
Genres Pop, R&B
Occupation(s) Organist, pianist
Instruments Piano, organ

David Cortez Clowney, known by the stage name Dave "Baby" Cortez (born August 13, 1938), is an American pop and R&B organist and pianist, best known for his 1959 hit, "The Happy Organ".

Life and career[edit]

Clowney was born in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Northwestern High School in the city. His father played the piano, and encouraged him to pursue a musical career. Clowney played the piano for 10 years, then he took up the organ. He made his first record in 1956 under his own name,[1] and also sang with two doo-wop groups, the Pearls and the Valentines, in the mid-1950s.

External video
Oral History, Dave Cortez reflects on his first hit record." Interview date November 14, 2012, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library

He scored his first major success in 1959, using the stage name Dave "Baby" Cortez.[1] His instrumental, "The Happy Organ", was the first pop/rock hit to feature the electronic organ as lead instrument; it featured drummer Gary Hammond and was co-written by noted celebrity photographer James J. Kriegsmann and frequent collaborator Kurt Wood. The guitar solo is by session musician Wild Jimmy Spruill. The 45 rpm single was the first instrumental No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart. The original 45 rpm single was released on the independent Clock Records label but the LP which featured it was released by RCA Victor by arrangement with Clock.

Cortez had another Top Ten hit in 1962 with "Rinky Dink" on Chess Records. This record became well known in the UK as the signature tune of the Saturday afternoon programme Professional Wrestling, introduced by Kent Walton, although few knew the name of the tune or the artist. The song has a strong resemblance to 1957's "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia, since it used the same guitar riff. He had his final pop hit in 1973, with "Someone Has Taken Your Place", on the All Platinum label.[1]

In 2011, after a 38-year hiatus from recording, Cortez returned with a new album on Norton Records backed by Lonnie Youngblood and His Bloodhounds, including underground luminary Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs and the Gories.



  • Dave "Baby" Cortez and His Happy Organ (RCA Records, 1959)
  • Dave "Baby" Cortez (Clock Records, 1960)
  • The Fabulous Organ of Dave "Baby" Cortez (Metro Records, 1960)
  • Music 'Round the Clock (Clock, 1961)
  • Rinky Dink (Chess Records, 1962)
  • Organ Shindig (Roulette Records, 1965)
  • Tweety Pie (Roulette, 1966)
  • In Orbit with Dave "Baby" Cortez (Roulette, 1966)
  • Baby Cortez the Isley Brothers Way (T-Neck Records, 1970)
  • Soul Vibration (All Platinum Records, 1972)
  • With Lonnie Youngblood and His Bloodhounds (Norton Records, 2011)

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[2] US
1959 "The Happy Organ" 1 5 Clock
"The Whistling Organ" 61 -
1962 "Rinky Dink" 10 9 Julia / Chess
"Happy Weekend" 67 - Chess
"Fiesta" 96 - Emit
1963 "Hot Cakes!" 91 - Chess
"Organ Shout" 76 -
1966 "Count Down" 91 - Roulette
1973 "Someone Has Taken Your Place" - 45 All Platinum


  1. ^ a b c Ron Wynn, "Dave 'Baby' Cortez", Allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 March 2016
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 68. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 38.