Cortez the killer organist

I have yet to find out why David Clowney Cortez was billed as “Baby,” though I suspect it had something to do with a couple of doo-wop songs on which he actually sang; most of the time he was behind the keyboard. In 1958, he scored the first-ever instrumental #1 on Billboard’s new unified Hot 100 chart with “The Happy Organ,” so big that mighty RCA Victor put out a whole album of Cortez, licensing the single from tiny Clock Records. Several smaller hits followed, and then in 1962 another monster: “Rinky Dink,” which married the instrumental break from “Shop Around” to the guitar lick from “Love Is Strange.”

What was believed to be the last Cortez album came out in 1972. But a mere 39 years later, Dave resurfaced with Lonnie Youngblood and his Bloodhounds for an 11-track album on Norton Records. The lead track, “The Lemon Drop,” is definitely of a piece with Dave’s earlier work:

Cortez was 73 when this came out. He’s still out there.





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