Ernie K-Doe, R&B legend and the self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Universe” was born February 22, 1936, at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, the 9th of 11 children of Pastor Ernest Kador, Sr., a Baptist preacher. “On the day I was born, the building was shaking and the walls went to trembling,” stated K-Doe in 1982. “The people there was yelling because they didn’t know what to do. Finally, somebody said ‘What’s happening on the 5th floor?’ The nurse screamed, ‘Ain’t but one thing it can be. It has to be a boy child being born and it has to be a K-Doe!’”
By 1959, K-Doe was the hottest attraction in New Orleans with his flamboyant wardrobe, exuberant dance moves and wild on-stage antics. K-Doe’s third Minit single, released in March, 1961, proved to be the record he is best remembered for, “Mother-in-Law.” “There are only two songs that will be remembered until the end of time,” K-Doe often bragged. “One is the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and the other is ‘Mother-in-Law.’” Written by Alan Toussaint, “Mother-in-Law” made it to No. 1 on the R&B and pop charts one month after it was released. K-Doe, suddenly the biggest name in the record industry, hit the road in a brand new Cadillac, wowing crowds from Chicago to the Apollo in Harlem.
Tragically, K-Doe’s career had begun to circle the drain by 1963. As K-Doe’s gigs got fewer and further in between in smaller and smaller clubs, he battled depression and he drank away his meager remittance, often owing the club more than he was paid. His luck changed in 1990 when K-Doe was befriended by Antoinette Dorsey Fox , the manager of his favorite bar. She urged him to curb his drinking, to get his career back on track. In 1995, Fox took over a run-down club under the overpass on North Claiborne Avenue which they renamed “Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge. “Ernie managed the club,” recalled Fox. “I managed Ernie.”
It worked. K-Doe soon was on the comeback trail. In 1998, he was presented with a Pioneer Award by Rhythm and Blues Foundation at a ceremony in New York City. “That’s when the people started calling me the ‘Emperor of the World,’” said K-Doe. “I was there with Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler and Smokey Robinson. They all wanted to know if I still had that drive and could excite the public. Well, not only did I excite the public, I incited them!” On July 4, 1999, dressed in an Uncle Sam costume made by his wife, K-Doe wowed the audience of 60,000 at the National Public Radio concert in Washington D.C..