K-Doe's Final 45 Revelation
Gotta love the lamentably late Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe (Local 504), whose helter-skelter musical career was an all-American entertainment amalgam of moxie, mojo, mayhem, flim-flam, ham, raw talent, copious energy, alcoholism overcome, shameless self-promotion, and, just possibly, delusions of grandeur. Over the years, he had far more misses than hits in the marketplace, played more dives (including his own beloved Mother-In-Law Lounge) than first class venues; but, to his credit, he kept on plugging, the perpetually optimistic Comeback Kid, just one hit record away from regaining his rightful place in the Big Time.
Ironically, how right he was. Had he hung on a few more years beyond his 2001 passing, he could have resumed his path to multiverse domination. Late last year, his recording of Allen Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls", from the 1970 Janus LP, Ernie K-Doe, was used in a popular commercial in the UK and became a hit single there. Because of that, more than 35 years after it first came out, the album was re-issued on CD. His regal widow, Antoinette, who is now always accompanied on official business by a bewigged, dressed out K-Doe mannequin, and fans had a fine release party for the occasion; but would that the actual Ernie could have been around to do a victory lap and bring it all full circle. Life, death, and certainly the music business, just ain't fair. But, at least, he didn’t have to deal with Katrina. . . .
Today's rare find is something else, done much later in the game when the singer was in his 50s, and quite unlike anything else he committed to vinyl. It should have had more commercial impact; but, by the late 1980s release date, the 7" 45 rpm record was already an artifact of old technology - almost everybody was selling and buying their music on cassette tapes and the new marvel, CDs . So, as a marketing move, this single was dead in the water from jump - tragic, because, amazingly, it was one of K-Doe's few recordings that ever edged close to the feel and appeal of his whirling dervish, anything can happen, live performances.
Credit has to be given to Milton Batiste, also departed, who co-wrote the tunes with K-Doe and produced this single and most all of K-Doe's later recordings for his Olympia Music and DuBat companies. Batiste was a trumpeter and co-leader of the Olympia Brass Band for many years; and after producing and recording singles and albums for the band, he branched out to record other local talent, including K-Doe, who he also managed (as much as anyone could). With a strategy of just letting K-Doe be K-Doe, Batiste oversaw a number of solid sessions with the singer - but none were more quirky and intense than the sides of this 45, starting off with "Jump Into Your Love".
"Jump Into Your Love" Mr. Ernie K-Doe and the Olympia Music Company, Syla 120, ca 1989
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From jump, the full-tilt groove of this mover and shaker careens back and forth on a bucking backbone of bass and drums, while the horns, probably Batiste's arrangement, spew the hooky central riff in a fusillade of blows and jabs nearly drowning out the hot, processed lead guitar. K-Doe rides this runaway rave-up with the confidence of a seasoned champ, not so much singing as rhythmically vocalizing with an abundance of attitude and joyous abandon. With shouts, screams, giggles, and random asides, he freely embellishes his Drano-gargling delivery of the scant lyrics, a mix of obvious (and oblivious) innuendo with mangled nursery rhyme verses ("Little Miss Muffin, sittin' on a tuffin ....."). There should be a warning that K-Doe's enthusiasm is wicked infectious, and giving in to the sheer frenzy of it all will very likely induce the electrocuted money dance and result in your ending up a tangled, breathless heap on the floor. Strangely, Ernie's "Burn, K-Doe, Burn" vibe was never fully exploited in the studio, and shows up even his hits as pretty tame affairs. In a just world, it should have propelled him back into the spotlight like a cannon shot. But, like I said, . . . at least he missed the flood.
"Do You Want Some"
Mr. Ernie K-Doe and Bayou Renegade, Syla 121, ca 1989
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Then, there's "Do You Want Some", which K-Doe turns into far more than just a suggestive musical question. It's a linear, fairly generic, funk groove. But lyrically, Ernie is again left wholly to his own spontaneously free-associating devices, providing much bizarro spunk to the track, as he issues forth an off the hook series of lustful entreaties and vocal effects, including several blood curdling screams, with the one at around 1:08 making James Brown sound like a nancy -boy. Good gawd, indeed. As if the soft-core trashiness needed reinforcement, they mix in a woman's voice emitting sounds of arousal to Ernie's over-the-top come-ons. Nice touch. Not only should there have been video - but you get a sense that Ernie could have had a lucrative second career in porn movie soundtracks.
Backing him on this amazing and hilarious adventure in sleaze are Bayou Renegade, a/k/a the Bayou Renegades, a group headed by, I believe, guitarist June Victory, who recorded the original version of their Mardi Gras wild-thang , "Down On The Bayou", for Milton Batiste back around that same time. Within a few years, Batiste issued these two sides along with a batch of reworked K-Doe hits and a few covers on a K-Doe CD with the daunting title, I'm Cocky But I'm Good Just Standin' On Top Of Da ' World. In the mid-1990s came another CD, Fever!, produced by percussionist Ken 'Afro' Williams (a member of Chocolate Milk) for Batiste's DuBat label, a mixed bag of cover tunes and new material, highlighted by K-Doe's haunting vocal on "Only 11 Roses". Various tracks from those CDs have since been recycled on several compilations of his later work, including The Best Of Ernie K-Doe, where you'll find both "Jump Into Your Love" and "Do You Want Some".
I've had these two tracks for years on CD; but, until I discovered the single, I never listened to them closely or realized that they came from what was the last 45 Ernie K-Doe made. The fact that it really is a revelation of what could happen in the studio when K-Doe didn't hold back (didn't have anything to lose?) gives this plastic piece of the past an intrinsic value far beyond price lists and auction bids, affording new insight into one of New Orleans' most eccentric and enduring entertainers. Long may he burn.