Ernie K-Doe

The R&B Emperor of New Orleans

by Ben Sandmel, with a foreword by Peter Guralnick

The Historic New Orleans Collection 2012
hardcover • 8" × 10" • 285 pp.
103 color images, 42 b/w images
ISBN 978-0-917860-60-7

Available at the Shop at the Collection for $39.95
E-book also available for Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook

In May 1961, one tune was sitting pretty atop both the R&B and pop charts: “Mother-in-Law” became the first hit by a New Orleans artist to rule black and white airwaves alike. Ernie K-Doe was only twenty-five years old, and his reign was just beginning.

Born in New Orleans’s Charity Hospital, K-Doe came of age in a still-segregated South. He built his musical chops singing gospel in church, graduating to late-night gigs on the city’s backstreets. He shed his surname, Kador, for the radio-friendly tag K-Doe. He coined his own dialect, heavy on hyperbole, and created his own pantheon, placing himself front and center: “There have only been five great singers of rhythm and blues—Ernie K-Doe, James Brown, and Ernie K-Doe!” Decades after releasing his one-and-only chart-topper, he crowned himself Emperor of the Universe. More than ten years after his death, lovers of New Orleans music remain his loyal subjects.

In its broad outlines, K-Doe’s story parallels that of his beloved, beleaguered city. He rose, fell, and rose again, weathering storms and lingering long after most considered him down for the count. In the end, he literally rose from the dead: an eerily lifelike statue of K-Doe held court at his castle, the Mother-in-Law Lounge, for years after his 2001 passing.

Journalist Ben Sandmel takes readers backstage in this intimately framed biography, with exclusive interviews with Ernie, his wife, Antoinette, and more than a hundred musicians, friends, and family members. Volume two in the Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ top one hundred nonfiction books of 2012, Living Blues magazine’s Best Blues Book of 2012, and Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.