Friday, August 15, 2008

ERNIE K-DOE'S GREAT JAZZ FEST TRAIN ROBBERY

Ernie K-Doe had a a number one, top forty pop hit in the 1961 with the tune "Mother-in Law"....K-Doe proclaimed that it and the Star Spangled Banner were they greatest songs ever written. K-Doe also proclaimed himself "Emperor of the Universe". Need I say more? A true New Orleans Care-Rackter if there ever was one....

K-Doe was married to a lovely woman named Antoinette. He had met her in the early '60's when she was working the counter at a liquor store , and as she bent over to grab a bottle of ripple, evidently she made quite an impression. He married her approximately 35 years after that sighting.

One time Antoinette and Ernie were having a bit of a domestic squabble in the backyard. K-Doe recused himself from the tussle, stormed in the house and slammed the screen door behind him...not realizing that his lovely bride was following close behind. The door sliced one of her fingers clean off, at the first knuckle.

After much freaking, they hopped in the Cadillac and drove to Charity Hospital. When they got to the emergency room the doctor asked for the missing digit, (for re-attachment purposes) but of course in all the hub-bub, K-Doe neglected to project that as a possibility. The finger was still on the back porch.

The Dr. instructed K-Doe to hustle home, grab a baggie and pack the finger in ice, and hustle back to the emergency room.

K-Doe boogied home, found the finger and put it on ice, but by this time he was so frazzled that he decided he was not fit to drive, and decided to take the bus back to the hospital.

Upon his arrival at the emergency room, the Dr. asked for the finger....but K-Doe spaced out and left the finger on the bus!

Lets hope that no unsuspecting rider mistook the finger as left-over lunch.

But I digress.....

By the time the millennium rolled around, the great classic New Orleans
R & B artists were leaving this planet at an alarming rate, and K-Doe probably knew he was one of the last of a dying breed...if he didn't, his wife surely did.

A perennial performer at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, K-Doe always was forced to perform at, at least in the estimation of his extremely savvy (albeit fingerless) wife, way below market value (Around $2500-$5000 for K-Doe and his entire ten piece band, depending on who you talk to)

So just a couple of years before K-Doe left this earth, just as he was ascending to the stage, his wife walked up to Quint Davis (The head honcho and co-founder of The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) and demanded $75,000 or K-Doe would not perform.

That year, K-Doe did not perform.

Well the scuttlebutt around the New Orleans musicians community was that Ernie K-Doe was categorically insane for demanding that kind of money....but I say crazy like a fox, or at least brave enough towards the end of his life to quit shuckin' and jivin' and start to demand his true worth.

The Jazz and Heritage Festival is produced under the auspices of Festival Productions. Festival Productions is helmed by George Wein (The founder of the Newport Jazz Festival). Wein is "a little more worldly" than his protégé Quint Davis, and realized that they could ill afford to allow the dirty little secret out that they were underpaying New Orleans musicians for years, and literally built a yearly festival representing millions of dollars in cash flow on the backs of the musicians they were supposedly were in support of. Pissing matches with legendary New Orleans figures just didn't make good business sense, especially if the court of public opinion caught a whiff and decided to pass judgement. So daddy applied the heat, and junior capitualted.

So the next year, K-Doe was back on the Jazz Fest Stage, and a rate of pay that was commensurate with his stature as one of the last men standing from the golden age of New Orleans R&B.

Like he always said..."Emperor of the Universe"! It was nice to see him win one before he checked out.

This is not all The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or Festival Production's fault however...the "plantation mentality" is in full effect here: All that the producers are guilty of is availing themselves to a system and mindset that's been around for 250 years.

It would be cool if that would change, but don't expect the beneficiaries of the system to all of a sudden grow a moral center...

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Wireless said...
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