The Happy Organ

Album: Happy Organ (1959)
Charted: 1
  • songfacts ®
  • This quirky little tune was the first #1 instrumental featuring an organ. Cortez was signed to a small label called Clock Records, and recorded it at their studio. The song was a "happy" accident - Doug Moody, owner and producer of Clock, told Songfacts how it came together: "Dave lost his voice that Saturday morning and could not sing 'The Cat And The Dog.' The guys were restless and started jamming. Dave was at the piano and was doing a funky version of 'Shortnin' Bread.' Our engineer (owner of the studio) had on one eye a rag top (which frequently slipped off) and yelled to Dave, 'Try the organ.' He went out and fired up the huge Hammond B3 in the corner. Dave could only play it in the key of C and we did one take of an instrumental. I lived with it all through the Christmas weekend and called it 'The Happy Organ.'

    I took it to Bobby Joyce at radio WLLY in Richmond Virginia. Bobby played the acetate until it wore out and then Jimmy Schwartz the distributor ordered 1000 records. We did not even have a B-side. 'Rinky Dink' was offered by Dave to us... I was out of the office on the road. but my father Wally said NO to Dave. Dave wanted off the label, didn't talk to me. My father and he signed an agreement, and Dave gave up all future royalties and rights to recordings he had made for Clock."
  • Cortez was touring with Little Anthony and the Imperials (earning $200 per week) when this hit #1 in the US. His manager pulled him off the tour so Cortez could promote HIS hit.
  • A followup song "The Whistling Organ" peaked at #61. "Rinky Dink" fared better, going to #10 in 1962.
  • Cortez' real name is David Clowney. He played piano on a number of doo-wop songs in the '50s, and also made a name for himself as a soulful organist. In 1973, he had a minor soul hit with "Someone Has Taken Your Place."
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Comments: 6

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 24th 1962, Dave 'Baby' Cortez performed "Rinky Dink" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    One month earlier on July 8th, 1962 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #97, and on September 9th, 1962 it peaked at #10 {for 1 week} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    The week it peaked at #10 another great instrumental was also on the Top 10, "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the MGs was at #5...
    Between 1959 and 1966 'Baby' had eight Top 100 records; the others were "The Happy Organ" {#1 for 1 week in 1959}, "The Whistling Organ" {#61 in 1959", "Happy weekend" {#67 in 1962}, "Fiesta" {#96 in 1962}, "Hot Cakes 1st Serving" {#91 in 1963}, "Organ Shout" {#76 in 1963}, and "Count Down" {#91 in 1966}...
    Mr. Cortez, born David Cortez Clowney, celebrated his 76th birthday eleven days ago on August 13th {2014}.
  • Tim from Bovey, MnJoe -- How did you determine the song was in Db? Did you listen to the original tape on a calibrated machine? This sort of thing comes up often, people claiming songs were in odd keys such as this. Remember, in those days songs were recorded mechanically -- mechanical tape machines, mechanical disc cutters, and on down the line. Rarely was great precision used in calibrating equipment from the time the tune was recorded until the time it was mastered, especially at smaller studios. Further, most people do not have calibrated, speed accurate record players. The closest you're going to get today is an original 45 played on a turntable with a strobe to set the speed. Even then you're not allowing for variations in the original recording/mastering process. If you're listening off the CD you also have to wonder where the master for the CD came from. Original tape? Not likely. Variations common.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny"Rinky Dink" was Dave Baby's only other Top Ten record; it just made it, peaking at #10 in 1962. Later in 1962 Bobby Rydel used the same melody and made a vocal record called "The Cha-Cha-Cha" and it also peaked at #10...
  • Joe from Chicago, IlMr. Moody, the well known recording of The Happy Organ is in the key of Db. Was the tape sped up?
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Castrange little record, but very cool!It gets my vote.
  • Homer from Versailles, IlThis is just a rocked up version of the old song "Shortnin' Bread".
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