The Passing of a Legend - Ernie K-Doe,
"Emperor of the World"

Ernest Kador"Ernie K-Doe"
February 22, 1936 - July 5, 2001

New Orleans said goodby to charismatic rhythm and blues icon Ernie K-Doe as only the Big Easy can - with a traditional jazz funeral procession and wake.

Doc Lawrence was there on Rampart Street as thousands of friends and fans lined the route of the jazz processional from the funeral to the cemetary. Before and behind the horse-drawn cortege, jazz bands marched and played, while followers twirled colorful umbrellas, in a ritual which is unique to New Orleans.

 


 

In 1961 when K-Doe's #1 hit "Mother-in-Law" was on the charts, he was considered one of the Big Five of Rhythm and Blues, a hierarchy which included James Brown, Lil Willie John, Joe Tex and Jackie Wilson. Before K-Doe's recent passing, however, he and James Brown were the only two of the Big Five who were still "doin' it". Although he never again quite attained the popular acclaim of the 60's, Ernie K-Doe continued to play the clubs (including his own club) and delight a loyal and enthusiastic following with his high-energy performances. And he was a terrific showman.



Ernie K-Doe did have his ups and downs: disillusioned with his success, feeling that his "handlers" were getting rich at his expense, K-Doe in the 70's and 80's was depressed and "in an alcoholic haze for years". In the 1990's, however, he clawed his way back to sobriety. With his third wife, Antoinette Fox, he turned a delapidated warehouse on Clairborne Avenue into a successful nightclub, "Mother-in-Law's Lounge". He was back on the job, sober and enthusiastic.

The lounge soon became a favorite haunt for locals and visiting music fans. The flamboyant K-Doe would frequently park his touring van out front, with his name emblazoned on it surrounded by stars. Inside,the jukebox was full of his songs, with which he would sing along, and frequently give full-scale performances.

As word leaked out of the performer's rehabilitation, the music world opened its arms to him. He was inducted into the Louisiana and New Orleans music halls of fame, and then accepted a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in Manhattan in 1997. In May 2001 he received a lifetime achievement award from Louisiana Governor Mike Foster.

K-Doe flourished in the limelight, nicknaming himself the Emperor of the World.His appearances at events were always memorable: he would show up in a limousine with a "Mr. Mother-in-Law" sign on the side, and he would wear outrageous clothes tailored by his wife, including a bright pink tuxedo, a gold-colored crown or a cape reading "Emperor K-Doe."

In re-creating himself after his struggles with alcohol, he had helped re-confirm New Orleans as a musical mecca. Definitely larger than life, Ernie K. Doe, King of the Mardi Gras Krewe du Vieux, self-styled Emperor of the World, was unique, flamboyant, eccentric, a New Orleans original and a musical legend. He will be missed.

 

For more information about Ernie K-Doe, Doc's News recommends his official website, www.k-doe.com,
We also appreciate the use of Rosemary Basil's Mardis Gras photograph. Doc's News acknowledges the input from these sources.



 

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Folk Art in the Big Easy

Other Unique Galleries in New Orleans

Legendary wine cellars

Doc's favorite Crescent City restaurants

 

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