The Mighty Ernie K. Doe
“Listen – Gotta Pack My Bag – MP3″
I hope the beginning of the week finds you well, loins girded against the woes of working for a living (assuming that you – like myself – still have to do so), assured that one need only hang in for another five days for that carrot at the end of life’s stick, i.e. the weekend.
Today’s selection is just a taste of the kind of music one might want to program for use during the weekend when ingestion of cold beverages – alcoholic or non – and hot music combine to loosen, massage and recharge the soul.
Surely you’ve all heard of Ernie K. Doe?
One of things we blogger types do, assuming that we have an ego (and we all do) is track the statistics, i.e. how many of you stop by to check things out, what it is you’re checking out and when you’re doing it. The good folks here at WordPress have always provided a very nice built-in stats program, which they recently revamped (again). One of the new items on the dashboard is a small listing of the three most traveled posts in the history of the blog.
So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been acclimating myself to the new set of stats, and learning to navigate the dashboard, so it was a little while before I took notice of this particular bit of numbers crunching. When I did my eyes almost rolled back into my head.
The Funky16Corners blog gets a fair amount of traffic. Not as much as some, but still a lot more that I ever imagined when I started things up almost four years ago. Every once in a while the incoming stats see a spike, usually the result of an outside link of some kind on a message board, or on some site better traveled than my own.
A while back I posted a fantastic, funky side by Ernie K. Doe. That tune ‘Here Come the Girls’ was a long time fave that I had been trying to snag (in the OG form, I’d had it on a comp) for some time. When I finally bagged a copy of the album on which it originated, 1970’s ‘Ernie K. Doe’ I was pleased to find that it was hardly the only great song on the record, which of course should have come as no surprise since it was a collaboration between Ernie and the mighty Allen Toussaint.
Anyway…I posted the track, left it up for a while, and then killed the link.
Almost a year later I got a couple of requests to repost the track, and as the file was still on the server, I repaired the link and assumed that a couple of folks would download it, and that would be the end of that.
Well, apparently the renewed interest in the tune was because some wiseacre in the UK (with impeccable taste) decided to use the track in a commercial for a chain of drug stores, and all of a sudden every Nigel, Clive and Harry in the land of limes had to get their hands on an MP3 thereof. As a result, in very short order my daily hits just about doubled, and then briefly tripled as folks stopped by to check out the tune.
Of course someone out there needed to capitalize on K Doe’s newfound (and sadly posthumous) popularity, and the rights-holder of this particular tune e-mailed me and asked me to take the link down so they might reap the windfall therein. I did so, but the traffic kept coming anyway (I posted a link redirecting them to the legal download site).
After a while I stopped paying attention, and eventually the spike disappeared and things got back to normal (or as normal as they ever are around here).
So, when I finally paid attention to these new stats I discovered that the all time biggest post on the Funky16Corners blog was the aforementioned ‘Here Come the Girls’, clocking in at almost 13,000 views, and still counting, the next highest being the Podcast Archive (which is kind of a running concern), followed distantly by the memorial I posted when James Brown passed away.
As I mentioned earlier, Ernie K. Doe is no longer with us, having slipped the surly bonds of earth back in 2001. In his day he was one of the most dynamic, flamboyant performers in the Crescent City. Though he began his recording career back in the early 50’s, it was in 1961 that he topped the charts with the biggest hit to ever come out of New Orleans, the great ‘Mother-In-Law’. Unfortunately, aside from a few glancing hits on the charts, it was pretty much downhill from there. Though K Doe never let up creatively (I’d place the 1970 LP near the top of his resume), he never again had the kind of impact that he did with his first hit.
This is not to say that he stopped working. Far from it.
After he parted ways with Toussaint in 1965, he spent the next five years working for the notorious Don Robey and the Houston-based Duke/Peacock concern. He had a few minor hits in 1967, but nothing of any significance. It was during his years with the labels that he starting to work the funky side of the street, and today’s selection, 1968’s ‘I Gotta Pack My Bag’ is a great example of that sound.
Though I can’t say for sure, my gut feeling is that K Doe’s Duke/Peacock tunes were New Orleans records only in the sense that K Doe made that city his home. They don’t sound like New Orleans sides (aside from the guitarist on this one), nor do I believe that Robey made a practice of recording there (if I’m wrong, drop me a line).
Either way ‘I Gotta Pack My Bag’ is a fine, funky record, with an opening drum break (and one later on as well), some tasty horns, piano and that guitar. K Doe’s vocals are excellent, and he manages to produce a James Brown-influenced side without sounding (like so many others did) a whole lot like James Brown. It could be that the groove is just a little bit looser (that NOLA vibe?), a little more Deep South, a little more funky in the broader sense of the word. In the end it matters not why, because funky it is and there aren’t that many of us who feel the need to parse the funk so thoroughly, most satisfied merely to absorb it, let it rush through the veins, quicken the pulse and satisfy.
Satisfy it does.
If you are so inclined – and haven’t done so already – get yourself some more K Doe. There are reissues to be had, and his 45s (aside from ‘Here Come the Girls’, the value of which went through the ceiling as a result of that commercial) are pretty easy to come by. You will not be disappointed.