Ernie K-Doe The R&B Emperor of New Orleans book review
Ernie K Doe: The R & B Emperor Of New Orleans
The Historic New Orleans Collection
By Grant Britt
Ernie K-Doe was the self-proclaimed Emperor of New Orleans Only problem was, some of the time, due to problems he created for himself, he was in such a bad place emotionally and physically that he was the only one who still believed in his royalness. In this warts and all bio, author Ben Sandmel paints such an unflinching portrait of K-Doe at times that you’re making a mental note to have a codicil put in your will ensuring that Sandmel never be allowed anywhere near a publication of your memoirs.
But even though the bad years are covered in excruciating detail, to his credit, Sandmel does celebrate K-Doe’s pullout of his nose dive with as much enthusiasm as he devotes to his crash.
Although most recognized for the Allen Toussaint-penned classic “Mother In Law, K-Doe ‘s recordings such as a “A Certain Girl,” “Wanted $10, 000 Reward, ” “T’Aint It The Truth,” “I Cried My Last Tear,” and “Stoop Down” are still New Orleans party staples. K-Doe also had a show on the Crescent City’s roots radio station WWOZ for many years, where his crazed antics and eccentric dialogues with himself won him a legion of devoted followers.
Sandmel rounded up an army of K-Doe’s peers including Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and Aaron Neville to pay glowing tribute. “Ernie K Doe played a big part in my life,” says Neville, who regarded him as a friend. “Regardless of how cocky he was, K-Doe was a cool guy,” Neville asserts.
“I don’t care where we’d go, he’d always say … I’m the greatest, but he’d always do a hell of a job,” Fats Domino bandleader Dave Bartholomew says, adding that if someone else tried to follow K-Doe onstage, they’d catch hell.
“K-Doe knew how to work the house,” Dr John says.
“I’ve never seen someone with that much energy and ambition who commanded the stage so well, “Allen Toussaint states. “When K-Doe got out there, he covered very inch of that stage.”
There’s plenty of imagery to back up all the praise. K-Doe is captured often in all his sweaty performance glory as well as with celebrities from Led Zep to Paul McCartney come to pay tribute to the emperor. The book is also a visual record of long-gone glory, with black and white photos of legendary haunts like the Dew Drop Inn. The collection of photographs alone make this book a collectors item for any fan of Crescent City r&b.
You won’t sit down and plow through this one in one sitting, but it’s one you’ll find yourself coming back to over and over again to revel in and remember with a chuckle the power and the glory that was Ernie K-Doe.