Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans

Ben Sandmel. The Historic New Orleans Collection (, $39.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-917860-60-7
Though he's best known outside of New Orleans for his 1961 hit "Mother-in-Law," Ernest Kador Jr., aka Ernie K-Doe, was a legendary figure in the Crescent City. Known for his wild performances, self-aggrandizing, and free-association radio broadcasts—not to mention his Mother-In-Law Lounge (essentially a shrine to the performer and his musical career, in which he frequently held court)—, Ernie K-Doe couldn't have existed anywhere other than in New Orleans. Here, local music expert Sandmel (Zydeco!) offers a terrific biography of the much-missed performer. Packed with anecdotes, candid photos, and interviews from those who knew K-Doe best, Sandmel charts the mercurial performer's rise, fall, and redemption before his death in 2001. Though K-Doe's trajectory (rapid stardom, reckless spending, substance abuse, career decline, and poverty) isn't surprising, Sandmel remains respectful and manages to hold the reader's interest, portraying K-Doe as an eccentric man who was by turns irritating, egotistical, and incredibly generous. A tireless self-promoter that often led to comparisons to Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the World would likely have been pleased by this balanced biography of a truly unique performer. Rounded out with a thorough index and discography of K-Doe's recordings, this is essential reading for those interested in the unique culture of New Orleans. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 06/11/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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