In Memoriam | Ernie K-Doe | 1936-2001 | How I Was Introduced to “The Emperor of the Universe”


There’s so much music out there these days that unless by some divine intervention, you may never hear some of the best music that’s ever been recorded.  If it weren’t for a bachelor party down in New Orleans, I probably would have never heard of Ernest Kador, Jr. (February 22, 1936 – July 5, 2001), professionally known as Ernie K-Doe.

It’s been a few years so I may fail to remember all of the details, but a close friend of mine decided to have his bachelor party in New Orleans. It was after Hurricane Katrina hit, so the groom-to-be decided to mix in some community service with the bar hopping. We woke up early one morning and took a shuttle down to the Lower Ninth Ward and spent the day painting walls, hammering in floors, throwing  out debris, etc. in a temporarily abandoned theater of a local high school. Drenched in our sweat (and a little blood) by day’s end, we really felt like we had done some good for the local community.

Me painting some doors at school in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Me painting some doors at school in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Afterwards, the person who facilitated the community service for the day suggested we head to a local spot, in the heart of Treme, called Mother-In-Law Lounge for some traditional New Orleans’ eats.  We picked up some crawfish and other local cuisine, and drove up to this small, unassuming “lounge”.  We walked into the side yard, and was immediately approached by spritely, enthusiastic, elderly woman with maroon dyed hair.  Our guide introduced her as Miss Antoinette.

Miss Antoinette ushered us into her establishment and started to gush about her late husband, Ernie K-Doe.  She explained to us that the lounge had been completely destroyed by Katrina, but that the community came together to rebuild the lounge and the city.  She explained that the bar was opened by her late husband and was named after his only number one hit song, “Mother-in-Law”, which was written and produced by Allen Toussaint and which is possibly THE biggest hit in the history of New Orleans R&B.

Some of the fellas with Miss Antoinette and Ernie K-Doe's statute.
Some of the fellas with Miss Antoinette and Ernie K-Doe’s statute.

I was so taken by Miss Antoinette’s personality, and probably a little taken by the life-size statue of Ernie in standing near the entrance, that music unheard, I went ahead and bought  compilation album of Ernie’s greatest hits. After all, Antoinette said that her late husband was the self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Universe”, so how could I not buy the Emperor of the Universe’s greatest hits? LOL. We ate, and drank, then head back to our hotel rooms to get ready for the evening.

I popped in the CD, and the first song was “Here Come the Girls”, a song that was also written by Allen Toussaint.  It was the first time I had ever heard the song, and I was immediately blown away.  Why had I never heard this song before?  I love a good horn section, and this song has it.  Ernie’s vocals were soaked with attitude.  And the hook does what it’s supposed to do … and it hooked me in for the rest of the album. This was New Orleans R&B, and I’m glad I found it. The rest of the album is solid, and I’ve posted a few of my favorite songs below:

1.  “Here Come The Girls” 

2. “Back Street Lover” 

3. “Whoever is Thrilling You (Is Killing Me)”  [which was also covered by Rufus

4. “Fly Away With Me” 

Miss Antoinette died the following year of a heart attack on Mardi Gras Day at the lounge.  The lounge is still open, and hopefully it stays open for years to come.  I’ll always have fond memories of the evening we spent with her, and learning about some essential New Orleans music.  Thankfully, we still have The Emporer of the Universe’s music.

R.I.P. Ernie K-Doe and Miss Antoinette. You’ve helped write a chapter in my life, and it comes with a soundtrack.

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