Clowney, known by the stage name
Dave “Baby” Cortez
(born August 13, 1938, Detroit, Michigan), is an American pop and R&B organist and pianist.
Clowney attended Northwestern High School in Detroit. 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.
Clowney made his first record in 1956 under his own name but it was not until three years later that he scored a major success using the stage name Dave “Baby” Cortez. 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. Before making his big break with an instrumental record, Clowney had sung with two doo-wop groups, the Pearls and the Valentines.
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.
In 2011, after a 39-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.