New Orleans great Toussaint feted in hometown

August 1, 2009 6:48:20 PM PDT
Over music and gumbo served in a historic New Orleans nightclub, pianist and hit songwriter Allen Toussaint will join the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Sunday's celebration was planned in a perfect spot for Toussaint and his fellow inductee, the late rhythm and blues singer Ernie K-Doe.

The Mother-in-Law Lounge is named for K-Doe's biggest hit from the '60s, "Mother-In-Law," which was written by Toussaint. And after being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilt club stands as a living monument of Big Easy musical history.

"It's fitting and proper to have the ceremony there," said Toussaint, 71, whose painted image was recently added next to K-Doe's on the club's outside entrance. "I wrote that song for Ernie all those years ago. This will be refreshing, and with the new painting, like a new grand opening."

The lounge was run for years after K-Doe's 2001 death by his widow, Antoinette, who died of a heart attack during Mardi Gras this year. The club is now being run by Betty Fox, Antoinette's daughter from a previous marriage.

"For Antoinette and Ernie, it goes on and on and on, and I love that," Toussaint said. "I love that their legacy goes on."

Toussaint has hundreds of hits to his name and received the Recording Academy Trustees Award during this year's Grammy Awards. He penned the 1966 Lee Dorsey classic "Working in a Coal Mine" and produced Dr. John's 1973 hit "Right Place, Wrong Time" and 1975's "Lady Marmalade" by the vocal trio Labelle. In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Besides "Mother-In-Law," K-Doe had a handful of notable songs, such as "T'aint it the Truth," "Come on Home" and "Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta." Ernie, who dressed in funky, flamboyant outfits that included emperor regalia, was a beloved character in New Orleans and thousands turned out for his funeral.

"He was a very cocky individual, but he would get in the ring and knock them out," Toussaint said. "I liked his great zeal for being front-stage and center. He was a real star."

The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame is currently a "virtual museum," available for viewing online, but executive director Mike Shepherd said the hall plans to open next year in a downtown space with two performance stages, a recording studio and multimedia exhibits.

"Since Katrina, so much of the New Orleans stuff is just gone," Shepherd said. "It wiped out so much archive material and people's possessions. We're just trying to keep them around. We want the music and the artist to be preserved."

Follow Action News on Twitter

Get Action News on your website

Follow Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.