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Rocking in his Grave 

Ernie K-Doe — R&B legend, nightclub proprietor, Charity Hospital baby and all-around bad motor scooter — has hardly failed to keep his profile high since his death in 2001. His Mother-In-Law Lounge, refurbished after Hurricane Katrina, is still a hot spot. The Emperor of the Universe himself, at least in effigy form, still makes appearances around town.

Weirdly enough, this past year yielded him a hit song that's raised awareness of the singer through the roof. The track 'Here Come The Girls," which was used in a holiday-time commercial for the English drugstore chain Boots in December and released as a CD and vinyl single (and also in 2004, on the compilation New Orleans Funk: The Original Sound of Funk 1960-65) by the reissue label Soul Jazz, came close to being a Christmas No. 1 hit in the U.K., which would have been a chart coup to rival 'Mother-in-Law" topping the Billboard R&B charts in 1961.

Around Christmastime, the song became utterly ubiquitious in the U.K. and seeped back into American consciousness via the Internet. A YouTube clip of the commercial registered more than 100,000 views at press time. The number of raves about the sound in the comments section was rivaled by dozens of complaints from British citizens who were deathly sick of constantly hearing the song every time they walked into the drugstore.

'It's strange, but it's not too strange," Antoinette K-Doe says. 'I don't know why that song became a hit again after so many years, but that's what happens after you're dead, anything you have becomes more popular. A dead man's song can come back alive."

The track " a driving, anthemic slice of soul with a marching-band martial beat " originated as part of a comeback session K-Doe recorded in 1970 with Allen Toussaint. It was the first time they worked together since the fruitful initial period of collaboration at the Minit label a decade earlier, which yielded classics like 'A Certain Girl," 'Hello My Lover" and, of course, 'Mother-in-Law." Toussaint, who is credited with writing eight of the 10 cuts on the album (released the following year as Ernie K-Doe on the Janus Records label), was in the early years of his studio and label partnership with Marshall Sehorn. Most of the tracks on the record are way funkier than K-Doe and Toussaint's early '60s patented Crescent City R&B. When you look up the album online " maybe because it was a collector's rarity for so long, there's a great deal of blog theorizing going on among record fans on the Internet " there's a general consensus of suspicion that even though they're not credited, it was the Meters (Toussaint's studio band at the time) who supplied that funky rhythm. The album, however, sold poorly, and it was the last time Toussaint and K-Doe worked together. K-Doe declined into alcoholism and obscurity for two decades before he was rediscovered as a local treasure/character in the '90s.

Inspired by the drugstore ad-driven success of 'Here Come the Girls," the Great American Music Company (another reissue label) acquired the recording and re-released Ernie K-Doe in its entirety as Here Come the Girls in March 2008. Now Antoinette K-Doe and the Blue Eyed Soul Revue, K-Doe's most regular backing band in his later years, are hosting a CD-release party for the Emperor of the Universe's new album. A spokesman for the Great American Music Company says that, while its policy is not to discuss contracts, Antoinette K-Doe is receiving royalties from the album.

K-Doe said that because the anniversary of her husband's death (July 5) is difficult for her, this year the CD-release party on July 12 will serve as the annual celebration of his life, while she keeps the actual memorial date low-key.

'That's a hard day for me to keep the Lounge open," she says. 'But his fans want to come and remember him, and talk about him, and I have to deal with it."

click to enlarge Ernie K-Doe's eponymous album is being re-released posthumously as Here Come the Girls. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Ernie K-Doe's eponymous album is being re-released posthumously as Here Come the Girls.
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