Born Ernest Kador, Jr., 22 February 1933, New Orleans, Louisiana
Ernest Kador was the ninth of eleven children fathered by Ernest Kador Sr., a Baptist preacher. Inevitably, his first singing experience was in his father's church. Before long he was singing in local gospel quartets such as the Golden Chain Jubilee Singers and the Zion Travellers, his hero (and main influence) being Archie Brownlee, the lead singer of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.
At age 17 he went to live in Chicago with his mother. There he sang in clubs (with signed permission slips from his mother) and was introduced to groups like the Moonglows, the Flamingos and the Four Blazes. Dave Clark, who worked as a producer and promotion man for United Records did a four-song session with Kador on November 30, 1953, but these tracks remained unissued until 1995.
Ernie returned to New Orleans in 1954, forming his own group, the Blue Diamonds, who recorded one single in June of that year ("Honey Baby"/ "No Money", Savoy 1134), backed by Huey Smith, Billy Tate, Frank Fields and Earl Palmer. Specialty A&R man Bumps Blackwell spotted Kador at Club Tijuana (where Little Richard, Johnny Ace, Chuck Willis and Guitar Slim had also performed) and signed him to Specialty Records. Ernie did two solo sessions for the label, in September 1955 and October 1956, but only one single was released ("Do Baby Do"/"Eternity", Specialty 563). Three unissued Specialty tracks were included on the Various artists LP "Lay That New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Down" (Specialty LP 2167) in 1988.
After a single on Ember ("Tuff Enuff") and an unreleased session for its sister label Herald, Ernie was signed to the fledgling Minit label in 1959. Minit was owned by Joe Banashak who had enlisted the services of Allen Toussaint as producer, arranger and talent scout. It was Banashak who suggested that Kador was difficult to pronounce and the phonetic K-Doe would be a better stage name. Later, Ernie would legally change his name to K-Doe and copyright it as well. His first Minit single, "Make You Love Me", sold well enough locally to continue Banashak's interest and a second session was scheduled on April 25, 1960. It was on this day that K-Doe cut the song with which he will be forever associated.
The way Ernie remembers it, he literally found "Mother-in-Law" in an overstuffed garbage can : "Allen Toussaint had written it and thrown it away... I saw it in the garbage can and pulled it out. I looked at the words and said, 'Hey man, this is good, I want to do it'." But Toussaint, who wrote, arranged and produced the song, has disputed Ernie's tale. The four songs that K-Doe recorded at this session had originally been written by Toussaint for Ernie's boyhood friend Danny White, a popular act in the New Orleans clubs. But he didn't record for Minit and Toussaint decided to try the songs with K-Doe. "Mother-In-Law" wasn't released until February 1961. Banashak chose to issue "Hello My Lover"/"T'Ain't It the Truth" first. Aided by Imperial's distribution network, it sold some 80,000 copies. But this was chicken feed compared to "Mother-In-Law", which became the first ever # 1 on the pop charts recorded in New Orleans (neither Fats Domino nor Little Richard ever had a # 1). "Mother-In-Law" was a sensational novelty record, which, by the title alone, had a head start. It was the ultimate mother-in-law joke, suggesting she was "sent from down below". It was a catchy song as well, with the nasal vocal of K-Doe contrasting with Benny Spellman's bass interjections in all the appropriate places. And Allen Toussaint's gospel-styled piano playing was innovative for its time, taking New Orleans R&B in a new direction with a more funky sound.
Suddenly, Ernie K-Doe was the most in-demand artist in the country and he set off on a series of tours. The follow-up, "Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta", stalled at # 53 pop (# 21 R&B) and the next two Minit singles peaked at even lower positions. After the good times at Minit had run out, Ernie started a long love affair with soul music (on Instant, Duke and Janus), forsaking his individual New Orleans style for the latest soul sounds. He was reunited with Allen Toussaint in 1970 for an album, but the old spark was missing. (The song "Here Come the Girls" from this LP became a # 43 hit in the UK in 2008, following its use in a TV commercial.) As his records became fewer and further between, Ernie was forced to concentrate on club work in New Orleans, where he always maintained a high profile, both as a dynamic performer and radio presenter.
Frustrated, K-Doe drifted into a long period of alcoholism until he met Antoinette Fox in 1990, who became Mrs K-Doe in 1996. She managed to get her husband to give up the drinking that had brought the onset of cirrhosis of the liver. A return to health had a positive effect on his career and he received several awards towards the end of the millennium. Sadly, the cirrhosis never went away completely and it was stated as the cause of his death on Thursday, July 5, 2001.
More info :
Further reading: Jeff Hannusch, "I Hear You Knockin'" (Swallow Books, 1985), p. 333-342.
Acknowledgements : Jeff Hannusch, John Broven, Neil Slaven, Fred Bronson, Wayne Jancik.
Dik, February 2012
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