Happy Birthday, Ernie K-Doe!

Ernie K-Doe in 1989
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Charles Paul Harris/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Born Ernest Kador Jr. in New Orleans on Feb. 22, 1933, the man known as Ernie K-Doe was one of soul music’s great voices and greatest eccentrics.

For one week in 1961, K-Doe was king of the U.S. pop chart, as his biggest hit, “Mother-in-Law” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written and produced by the great Allen Toussaint, who literally threw the song away during its recording session when he and K-Doe could not get a decent take. As Toussaint told NPR, a background singer in the session convinced the producer to take another crack at it.

"He thought it was just a delightful song, and he took it out of the trash can when I took a short break, and went over to K-Doe and said, 'Look, try this again, man,'" Toussaint said. "K-Doe did just that, and I'm so glad he did."

While K-Doe would have a few more minor hits, “Mother-in-Law” was his only taste of big-time success. He was not without his fans, though, among them singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, who covered K-Doe’s take on Allen Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl” in 1980.

In 2008, British girl group Sugababes had a Top 3 hit in the U.K. with “Girls,” which interpolated another Toussaint cut that K-Doe had recorded in 1970: "Here Come the Girls."

K-Doe struggled with alcoholism, but was a beloved figure in New Orleans, often seen wearing a cape around town and calling himself “The Emperor of the World.” He had popular local radio shows and still performed occasionally well into the ‘90s. Ernie K-Doe died in 2001 of kidney and liver failure, attributed to his alcoholism.

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