Ernie K-Doe re-entered the UK’s consciousness five years ago, after Boots used first his original 1970 version – and, later, a painfully lifeless Sugababes cover – of the joyously funky Here Come The Girls in their ad campaign. Yet it’s his 1961 Mother-In-Law single that first got people talking: a caustic record, it went on to assume a life of its own, not least in K-Doe’s Mother- In-Law Lounge, the New Orleans venue where the self-proclaimed Emperor Of The World held court in his later years. Tyrannising and dazzling local crowds, K-Doe fanned the flames of his eccentric reputation, giving free rein to his whims every time he took to the stage – even once going so far as to hold an audience hostage until the police arrived to set them free.
K-Doe died in 2001; four years later, Hurricane Katrina did its best to destroy his city. Sandmell’s chronicle emerges, then, as a minor miracle, jam-packed with photos we’re lucky to see survive: he’s serenading Paul and Linda; standing tall with Sam Cooke; looking the epitome of ego gone wild in bejewelled crown and custom jackets. Sandmel gets the ridiculousness of it all. He also gets the very human aspects that led to K-Doe’s rise and fall – taking in gunfights, drugs and a mis-judged impromptu audition for Jerry Wexler at Professor Longhair’s funeral – and rise again. He tells the story with love and understanding – and rightly returns the crown to the Emperor’s head.