Del Courtney, c.1955
publicity photo
Delmor “Del” Anthony Courtney (September 21, 1910–February 11, 2006), known as “The Old Smoothie”, was a big band leader in the Bay Area and later Hawai’i. He played at the inaugural balls for four presidents—Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Del was born September 21, 1910 in Oakland. He attended St. Mary’s, University of the Pacific (where he was a fraternity brother of Dave Brubeck) and received a masters in music from U.C. Berkeley.

He formed his first band and started playing at the Claremont Hotel in 1933. Del had his own radio show on KWBR in Oakland (the forerunner of today’s KMKY AM1310). 4 In the 1950s, Del hosted a live variety show on KPIX TV. In the 1960s, he hosted a radio show on KSFO. c.1965, he was part owner of KSAN, AM1450. 3

From 1959–1978, Del was the bandleader for the Oakland Raiders, and is credited with starting the Raiderettes cheerleading squad. 1, 2

Del was married three times and divorced twice, and had no children. His first wife Cornelia Driggs (Courtney) (m.1957–1966) was better known as singer Yvonne King of The King Sisters. She sued for divorce in July, 1966, charging “extreme cruelty.” 5 His second wife Yvonne Marie Antoinette JaMais (m.1966–1972) was better known as singer Connie Haines. His third wife was Nalani (Courtney).

In 1978, Del moved to Honolulu, where he continued to lead bands. He died February 11, 2006 in Hawai’i, and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.

Other Notes

Del lived at 3856 Lyon Avenue in Oakland c.1920–1941.

In 2005, Del Courtney published an autobiography, ”Hey, The Band’s Too Loud!”, with forwards by Dave Brubeck and John Madden.

Recording of “In Our Little Part Of Town” by Del Courtney and his Orchestra:

Additional Links

  1. Del Courtney on BigBandLibrary.com
  2. Del Courtney—Big Band Leader Known As ‘Old Smoothie’ San Francisco Chronicle February 17, 2006
  3. Del Courtney at Modesto Radio Museum (includes recording)
  4. RIP: Del Courtney (1910-2006) on Bay Area Radio Digest
  5. King Sister Sues Mate Del Courtney Long Beach Press-Telegram July 23, 1966