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
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
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.