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Product ID:  9780917860607
Category:  History
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Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans
By Ben Sandmel
April 2012

A vital, loving chronicle of the colorful life and frequently hard times of the New Orleans R&B singer and self-styled Emperor of the Universe. To many, Ernie K-Doe (1936 2001) is a one-hit wonder: His evergreen oldie Mother-in-Law topped the pop and R&B charts in 1961. But to New Orleans journalist Sandmel (Zydeco!, 1999), the vocalist was much more, and this smart, funny and richly designed and illustrated book makes a rousing case for the musician as a quintessential Crescent City figure. Born Ernest Kador Jr. in the city s Charity Hospital, K-Doe authored his hit single and other lively R&B tracks for local Minit Records, but a follow-up smash proved elusive. While he maintained a hometown profile as a hardworking performer in the James Brown/Joe Tex mold, K-Doe was best known for years as a DJ on New Orleans WWOZ. There, his lunatic manner, unique lexicon and stream-of-consciousness raps cemented his status as a NoLa institution. Megalomania, alcoholism and a propensity for professional bridge burning left him virtually homeless by the late 80s. However, he enjoyed a second act in the 90s after he opened his famed Mother-in-Law Lounge with wife Antoinette, who restored him personally and professionally. The club, which often doubled as the K-Does living room, attracted a crowd of tourists, oddball locals, young musicians and journalists (including the New York Times Neil Strauss, who had a notorious set-to with the eccentric proprietors while on assignment in 2000). K-Doe s saga didn t end with his death: He maintained a bizarre afterlife at the Mother-in-Law and around town in the form of a life-sized sculpture created by local artist Jason Poirier. Though severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the lounge was restored and run by Antoinette until her death in 2009. Despite a multitude of personal faults, K-Doe emerges here as hilarious, complex and indomitable a larger-than-life character altogether worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of his city s oversized musical titans. A vital, essential addition to the shelf of great books about New Orleans. --Kirkus, starred review