Empress Antoinette bids
farewell to her Emperor
Ernie looked magnificent. Since K-Doe is the reigning 2001 King of the Krewe du Vieux, he was decked out in his white tuxedo lined with sparkling silver braided trim. Under the artistic eye of the Empress Antoinette, Ernie's royal sash gently rested near his left shoulder as his royal glistening crown adorned his long tussled black hair. The Empress complimented her Emperor by wearing a striking two piece white suit with matching sash and crown. She proudly wore the Queen sash presented to her by the Krewe du Vieux and the golden bagel around her neck presented by the Krewe du Jieux. While the Emperor's shoes were white trimmed with silver, the Empress wore solid white pumps. You may remember that Antoinette and Ernie were the first in New Orleans to design funeral clothing and casket decoration for fellow musician Jessie Hill's funeral. They recently donated those matching black and gold "Mourning Suits" to the Louisiana State Museum.
The inside lid of the full couch open casket was adorned with purple flowers interspersed with a few yellow flowers. They were entwined with green ferns and other foliage to represent the purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras. The white crepe interior of the silver handmade wooden casket was trimmed with silver braiding. Considering that the Rhodes family has been in the funeral
since 1884, Joan Rhodes said that this was the first time they
to custom design the lining of a casket to match the clothing of
the deceased. Burn K-Doe Burn.
Stevenson also showed a killer 12 minute tape of his footage that will eventually be part of his K-Doe documentary, and some of it will be included in the Allen Toussaint documentary that he is currently creating. Some of the footage was shot at radio station WTUL, at a time when Ernie was exhibiting the best of his "Burn K-Doe Burn" disc jockey antics. Palfi also has incredible documentation of K-Doe at his shoeshine stand in Treme, along with that of Ernie stoop sitting, expounding his thoughts ... as only K-Doe could do.
wake service had many moving moments. After the prayer and Invocation
by Rev. Zebadee Bridges,
Irma Thomas sang the tender gospel tune, "No Not One" a
cappella. Mayor Marc Morial kept a reverent, yet humorous tone in
his tribute to Ernie. He mentioned that he had received many telephone
calls from people who felt that Gallier Hall should be a prestigious
place reserved only for dignitaries lying in state. Morial responded,
"If they could lay out P.G.T. Beauregard here, why not Ernie
K-Doe?" Morial noted that K-Doe would never be forgotten and
that the city would honor him in a soon to be created Musical Legends
Park to be located in the 300 block of Bourbon Street. K-Doe's friend,
Louisiana State Representative Jackie Clarkson, offered a poignant
tribute to Ernie. Deacon John Moore, who played guitar on most of
K-Doe's recordings, gave a touching Eulogy that was laced with K-Doe
stories and laughter. Marva Wright belted out a beautiful gospel "They
are Somewhere Around God's Throne," leading the service into
the musical tribute segment.
K-Doe's niece, Vanessa Thornton
room, which had been closed off during the service, was then opened
so the throngs of people waiting in the halls, and those who had been
watching the event on a live feed in the video room, could view the
body. Folks walked and danced in front of the casket as the musical
tribute went on until 11 pm. Those in attendance frequently leapt
to their feet, applauded and danced in place as an extraordinary rhythm
and blues celebration unfolded.
K-Doe's band, The Blue Eyed Soul Revue, began the musical tribute. Immediately, many of the rhythm and blues "old timers" that we rarely have the opportunity to experience live, jumped up to sing for Ernie.
Long missed from the music scene due to ill health, Oliver Morgan was the first up to sing his hit, "Who Shot the La La." He was joined by Deacon John. Then Reggie Hall stepped up to the piano to play "Mother-in-Law," which brought folks to their feet clapping and dancing as they joined in song. Next, Al Johnson sang his legendary "Carnival Time" and he was soon joined by MC Marva Wright. Barbara George, who has been absent from performing for decades, sang her hit "I Know." Timothea joined in, singing her version of "Everybody Loves a Lover." Walter "Wolfman" Washington's band, The Roadmasters, members Tom Fitzpatrick, Jack Cruz, Tom Worrell, Oliver "LeeLee" Alcorn, Dave Woodard and Antonio Gambrielle, took over next. "Wolfman" brought more excitement to the crowd with his rendition of Jessie Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo." It was a special moment because Jessie had been a great friend of Ernie and Antoinette.
Crawford sang a soulful "Drown in My Own Tears," frequently
singing to Ernie while leaning over the casket asking, "Why did
you have to leave us?" Emotions were flying high. Paula Rangell,
of Paula and the Pontiacs, brought a moment of reverence to the mix
by performing an original gospel tune a cappella. Next came a set
change, followed by Jean Knight stepping up to sing her hit "Mr.
Big Stuff," followed by a crowd pleasing "Don't Mess With
My Toot-toot." The audience was recharged, bursting into song
in accompanying Coco Robicheaux, with everyone paying tribute to K-Doe
by singing "A Certain Girl." Coco was supported by backup
singers Holley Bendtsen, Debbie Davis, with Smokey Greenwall joining
the band on harmonica.
if the crowd was not already charged enough, J. Monque'D picked up
the microphone in tribute to K-Doe's history as a Mardi Gras Indian,
first as a Spy Boy with the Sons of Geronimo, then becoming Chief
of the Geronimo Hunters. Monque'D sang Earl King's "Big Chief,"
bringing everyone again to their feet. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes
followed with the lovely "Now is a Needy Time."
|Many sidemen quietly stepped in and out to take part in the musical tribute, including drummer Willie Cole, who played on many of K-Doe's recordings, drummer Kerry Brown, bassist Matt Perrine, guitarist Jimmy Ballero, saxophonist Harold Battiste, guitarist Detroit Brooks, keyboardist David Batiste, guitarist Bobby "Juicy" Lacour, pianist Qunitron (Vice President of K-Doe's recording company which recently released K-Doe's two new social commentary tunes "White Boy - Black Boy" and "Children of the World"), and Allen Toussaint, who quietly slipped in to play "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." As the wake came to a close, there was an encore a cappella of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" sung by Marva Wright, J Monque'D, Sister Mary Bonnett-Jumonville and Gloria of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Choir.
There were many poignant moments, especially when Barbara George and Harold Battiste hugged and cried for about 15 minutes in their joy of finding one another again. There was one stunned moment of silence in the midst of dancing, clapping and yelling, when a lady, surely not a native, turned around and was heard to say, "Isn't it terrible ... why he's not even in the ground yet and everyone is yelling Burn K-Doe Burn."
Many folks in our great community contributed their talents to present such an extraordinary tribute to K-Doe. After all, what could be more New Orleans than K-Doe's wake? Why K-Doe's funeral, of course.