Dave “Baby” Cortez – The Happy Organ (1959 – Part 6)

One of those songs whose name gives the listener a pretty accurate description of what it’s all about. But when put in context, The Happy Organ is also historically relevant – it helped popularize the use of the electric organ in the pop/rock format, as opposed to jazz. The owner and head of Clock Records which the single was released on explained in more detail how the song came to be: “Dave [Cortez] lost his voice that Saturday morning and could not sing. […] The guys were restless and started jamming. Dave was at the piano and was doing a funky version of Shortnin’ Bread. Our engineer had 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.”

It’s not every day that you see a completely instrumental song top the charts. Besides Dave “Baby” Cortez, two more people had a hand in making The Happy Organ what it is: James J. Kriegsmann – the photographer behind many famous shots of artists such as Cab Calloway or Frank Sinatra – is credited with co-writing it, and Wild Jimmy Spruill – a famous session guitarist at the time – is responsible for the solo. Spruill will make an appearance in future number ones such as Wilbert Harrison’s Kansas City and Bobby Lewis’ Tossin’ and Turnin’.

The Happy Organ spent 1 week at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by the aforementioned Kansas City.


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