Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl
Burn, K-Doe, Burn!!
As much as I love the music of New Orleans, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never gotten much of a handle on the mighty Ernie K-Doe. K-Doe was indisputably one of the cornerstones of New Orleans R&B (not mention having had what was probably the biggest hit to ever come out of NOLA, ‘Mother In Law’). He was also one of the great characters in a city filled with them, blazing a trail of great music and even greater self-promotion until his unfortunate passing in 2001. I certainly knew (and loved) ‘Mother In Law’, a truly fantastic record, guaranteed to get everyone in the room (Grandma included) aping Benny Spellman’s basso profundo chant of “Mu-hother In-a Law” in the chorus. Later on, I was hepped to K-Doe’s funky side via a reissue appearance of ‘Here Come The Girls’ from his funky (and rare) 1970 Janus LP (both of those tunes Allen Toussaint tunes/productions). I can’t say much about his efforts in-between those bookends as I’ve never grabbed any of his post-Minit/pre-Janus recordings on either the Instant or Duke/Peacock labels (I’ll get around to it eventually, I swear...). One other tune I was aware of (but didn't originally know as a K-Doe original) was ‘A Certain Girl’. I first heard the song when I was in high school, via a Warren Zevon cover on his ‘Bad Luck Streak At Dancing School’ LP. Zevon – who was coming off of the success of ‘Werewolves of London’ was still getting a fair amount of play on FM rock stations at the time. I heard ‘A Certain Girl’ and liked it, but had no idea it wasn’t a Zevon original. Cut to five years later, when I was deep inside the 60’s punk revival, and I hear the tune yet again, this time on a Yardbirds LP. I check the writers credit – which said ‘Naomi Neville’ – which meant nothing to me at the time, and figured the Yardbirds cut the original. Not long after that, I heard ‘I Feel Good’ by the Artwoods, see the same ‘Naomi Neville’ credit (not knowing who did the original)* , figure something’s up and start digging for info. It wasn’t long before I found out that ‘Naomi Neville’ was in fact a pseudonym for Allen Toussaint, and that ‘A Certain Girl’ was in fact originally done by Ernie K-Doe in 1962 (ain’t it funny how circular these things are???). It was a few more years before I heard K-Doe’s version, and a few more after that before I scored a copy of the 45. Naturally, things being what they are, and following my great love for all sounds Toussaint-ian, I’ve come to prefer K-Doe’s version. First and foremost I dig that authentic New Orleans sound, including that fat, steady beat, the rolling piano and the slightly off-kilter backing vocal (is that Benny again with the deep, deep ‘NO’s?). Second, how can you not dig K-Doe’s voice? He’s got that high tenor, full of Crescent City flavor and he delivers the lyric (is that a hint of New Orleans hoodoo I sense in the ‘I can’t tell you her name until I get her’ stuff?) like he’s narrating his own experience. K-Doe would record an LP for Minit - which did not include ‘A Certain Girl’ – but the tune did appear on a 1963 Minit compilation called ‘We Sing The Blues’. As I said before, after Minit went bust, K-Doe took his bidness to Instant, then to Duke/Peacock, then on to Janus. He went through some rough times in the 70’s and 80’s, and then started a resurgence in New Orleans in the 80’s (with a radio show) and then in the 90’s with the opening of Ernie K-Doe’s Mother In Law Lounge (which seems to have sustained some water damage from Katrina, see below). K-Doe rules that particular roost until his death in 2001. His widow, Antoinette has run the club ever since (and has vowed to bring it back). * It was more than ten years later that I found out by chance that the original version of ‘I Feel Good’ was recorded by Benny Spellman, released on ALON and Atlantic
PS I've moved the link to Red Cross Hurricane Relief to a permanent position in the sidebar
Ernie K-Doe's Mother In Law Lounge