The Funeral

Not long after the doors of Gallier Hall opened to the public Friday morning at 8 am, the Fire Marshall ordered the gates locked, with the legal capacity already strained by the thousands in attendance. The two hour service began at 11 am with Rev. James Landrum of St. Matthew's Chapel Baptist Church
officiating the invocation and scripture readings. Sherman Washington, leader of the Zion Harmonizes, stepped up to the podium to offer prayers and the singing of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." Rev. Landrum joined in the singing of the next hymn while dancing across the stage, then taking it to the house, much to the delight of cheering onlookers.

Deacon John Moore received tremendous applause after playing acoustic guitar and singing a magnificent "Many Rivers to Cross," an emotion filled song that brought many to tears. Philip Batiste, a past king of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, kept the audience laughing with his reminiscence of K-Doe's life, warming our hearts with stories of Ernie's generosity.

Several politicians were present. Councilmen Eddie Sapir and Troy Carter spoke to honor K-Doe. Although Mayor Marc Morial had to leave New Orleans earlier that morning, he sent Julio Guichard as his representative in declaring July 13th to be "Ernie K-Doe Day." Mr. Guichard presented Antoinette K-Doe with a commemorative certificate from the City of New Orleans. You might think that the service would have been somber at this point, but politicians and friends rose to the occasion with lovin
g humor in tribute to K-Doe.

Allen Toussaint, normally somewhat reticent, comfortably told tales about a young Ernie K-Doe and recounted memories from recording sessions long ago. For everyone's enjoyment, Allen played a musical medley tribute on the baby grand piano while the audience sang along to many familiar K-Doe tunes. Toussaint remarked, "You can feel how thick the spirit is in this place." The mood was lifted even higher when family friend Ruth McKessian sang "His Eyes are on the Sparrow."
Spirit was in abundance when K-Doe's nephew Charles Johnson spontaneously leapt

leapt up to sing an impassioned "Precious Lord," which brought gospel church emotion to the clapping and dancing crowd. K-Doe's niece, Vanessa Thornton, read the obituary. The Zulu Gospel Ensemble sang a compilation of many of the old gospel favorites including "This Little Light of Mine," "Jesus on the Mainline," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arm" and "I am a Soldier" during the final viewing procession. Members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club ushered the casket out of Gallier Hall.

The most important thing that can be said about the funeral for The Emperor of the Universe, Mr. Manaugahide himself, Ernie K-Doe, the one, the only, the baddest motorscooter and the Greatest Boy-Child ever conceived at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, can be stated in one sentence. The spectacular tribute to Ernie K-Doe was the largest jazz funeral and second line New Orleans has ever seen. The grand celebration was quite in keeping with the style of the flamboyant K-Doe, proving that he was not just a legend in his own mind, but truly a respected legend by his many loving fans.

An estimated 5000 people lined St. Charles Avenue in the scorching summer sun for the funeral procession to begin. The pallbearers carried the casket down the steps of Gallier Hall to the waiting hearse, a magnificent carriage drawn by two white stallions. The family chose Wanda Rouzan as their Grand Marshall. She led the procession, accompanied by Grand Marshall Alfred "Bucket" Carter, Grand Marshall Ernest Skipper and Henri Smith. What better choice of bands could put together a more traditional send-off than Gregg Stafford's Young Tuxedo Brass Band and Norman Dixon's Young Men Olympian Benevolent Society?

They wore the traditional black and white uniforms of respect and were faithfully solemn while accompanying the body, and lifting spirits at the proper time of celebration. Next came the Lil' Stooges, a high energy contemporary brass band that is probably the most frequently seen band in many of the Sunday Second Line events.

They were followed by the jammin' Lil' Rascals Brass Band, with Trombone Shorty and several of his band members joining in. The second line event was enhanced by the thousands joining in the joyful dancing celebration. As requested by Ernie's widow, Antoinette, many revelers wore costumes and colorful clothing.

K-Doe's life touched everyone, as was evident by the crowd. People came from every walk of life. As for those attending his funeral, there were no boundaries as to profession, age, gender or color. It seemed that everyone wanted to be included and have a small part in this moment of Louisiana history. The joy was contagious, with people walking on Canal Street, previously unaware of the celebration, gleefully joining the entourage. Others could be seen hanging out of their office windows cheering the throng of participants. People were dancing on top of bus shelters, walls, and even upon tomb tops as the precession arrived at the cemetery.

The pallbearers carried K-Doe down the narrow aisles of St. Louis # 2 Cemetery to his final resting place. There was a brief graveside service with comments and prayers, before the reverent joined the revelers down Claiborne Avenue at the Mother-in-Law Lounge.

It had the feel of Mardi Gras with the huge crowd milling beneath the Interstate overpass. There were K-Doe friends and fans, Krewe du Vieux members in colorful attire, musicians and Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs all sharing in the camaraderie.

From there, many went to the Mid-City area of New Orleans for the repast held at the Rock 'n Bowl, where they enjoyed cooling drinks, friendship and great food. J Monque'D and Snooks Eaglin entertained the huge crowd for several hours while friends and admirers shared their pleasures of the day and fond memories of Ernie.

The Story:
The Wake The Funeral The Mother-in-Law Story Accolades
The Wake The Service The Procession St Louis Cemetery #2
Mother-in-Law Lounge The Repast at Rock 'n Bowl The Album

© 2001 Pat Jolly
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