Ernie K Doe – Mother-In-Law

A fun song with a sense of humor. It stays with me on one listen. Apparently, it stayed with others because it peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100 in 1961. Unfortunately, this was Ernie’s only top 40 hit.

This song was written by Allen Toussaint, who was Ernie K-Doe’s producer. Toussaint came up with the song when he was playing piano in his family’s living room, messing around with bits of a song he had heard from the gospel group the Harmonizing Four. Trying to think up lyrics, he came up with the title and quickly fabricated the story about a guy who is put through hell by his mother-in-law.

After researching this song…I found a picture of Ernie and Led Zeppelin in New Orleans.

Image result for ernie k doe and led zeppelin

From Songfacts

K-Doe’s real name: Ernest Kador. Born in 1936, he remained a popular singer and radio personality in New Orleans until his death in 2001. While best known as a singer, K-Doe was also an accomplished drummer.

The song plays on the stereotype of the meddling mother-in-law who feels the man who married her daughter isn’t good enough for her. Most songs of this nature would be labeled “novelty” records, but K-Doe’s sincere delivery kept that tag off the song in most publications.

Toussaint didn’t have a mother-in-law at the time – he was single – but he kept hearing comedians making mother-in-law jokes on TV, so he knew it would get a reaction. Toussaint says that his grandmother was horrified when she heard it, but forgave him later.

The bass singer on this track who repeats the “mother-in-law” refrain was Benny Spellman. The success of this song caused a running argument between K-Doe and bass singer Spellman as to who was responsible for the hit. Spellman prevailed upon Toussaint to write a song for him to record, “Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette).” When Spellman recorded it, K-Doe sang backup vocals.

Allen Toussaint thought Ernie K-Doe would be a good fit for this song, since Ernie was known as a showman, and for making outrageous self-promotional statements. K-Doe claimed that this song “will last to the end of the Earth, because someone is always going to get married.”

This was by far the biggest hit for K-Doe, whose other chart entries were “Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta” (#53, 1961), “I Cried My Last Tear” (#69, 1961), “A Certain Girl” (#71, 1961) and “Popeye Joe” (#99, 1962). His 1970 song “Here Come The Girls!” was sampled by the Sugababes for their 2008 UK hit “Girls.”

In 1994, K-Doe opened a bar and music venue in New Orleans called “The Mother-in-Law Lounge” with his wife Antionette. After Ernie died in 2001, Antionette kept the venue alive, preserving Ernie’s memory with a fully costumed, look-alike mannequin of the singer. The lounge was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but reopened a year later. Antionette K-Doe died of a heart attack on February 24, 2009, which was the day of Mardi Gras.

K-Doe claimed that he fished the song out of Allen Toussaint’s trash can and recorded it because he related strongly to its sentiments: his mother-in-law was living in his house at a time of marital turmoil. In our interview with Toussaint, he explained what happened: “I wrote four songs for him to do, because we always recorded four songs at a time, and ‘Mother-In-Law’ was one of them. When I tried it out on him the first time, he began to shout and preach at it and I really didn’t like his approach to it. I thought it was a waste of time to try to get him to do it, so I balled it up and put it in the trash can, like I did with other songs. One of the backup singers, Willie Harper, thought it was just a wonderful song, so he took it out of the trash can and said, ‘K-Doe, why don’t you calm down and listen closer to the way Allen is doing it and try to do it like that? This is a good song.’ So he calmed down and didn’t preach at it, but did it like it finally came out.”

This song was recorded in New Orleans at J&M Studios, which was also where Little Richard and Fats Domino recorded. Allen Toussaint was a regular at the studio, sometimes recording his own material, but usually doing session work.


Mother-in-law (mother-in law), mother-in-law (mother-in-law)
The worst person I know, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She worries me so, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
If she leaves us alone, we would have a happy home
Sent from down below
(Mother-in-law) mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

Sin should be her name, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
To me, they’re about the same, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
Every time I open my mouth, she steps in, tries to put me out
How could she stoop so low?
(Mother-in-law), mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

I come home with my pay, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She asks me what I make, mother-in-law, mother-in-law
She thinks her advice is a contribution
But if she will leave that will be a solution
And don’t come back no more
(Mother-in-law), mother-in-law, (mother-in-law), mother-in-law

Mother in law, mother in law, oh

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

17 thoughts on “Ernie K Doe – Mother-In-Law”

    1. Isn’t it though? I haven’t listened to it today because it will be in my head when I do.
      Not a bad thing but I probably will tonight.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Always loved this song! Huey Lewis and the News recorded an album called Four Chords and Several Years Ago, and covered it. One of the things they did for the album was to record it all in one big studio, with everyone playing at the same time, just like they did back in the day. It’s a pretty good album.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yea today people don’t want to bleed over to the other mic…there is nothing wrong with a little bleeding over… in fact you get a more authentic sound and it’s full.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had one MIL and she was like a grandmother to me. My first husband was seven years older than I and he was an accident to older parents. His brother & sister were my parents age.

        Past that, second hubby’s mother died when he was a teen.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get along with mine… If I would have got married to my first fiancee… I had hate for her mom…
        Fun song…and it stays in your head

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We like his song, “A Certain Girl” too. Though we first heard it by British songster Wayne Fontana, we now prefer Ernie’s original version.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You talked about this sort of thing on your other post. I just read a book about George Martin and before the Beatles he made some knock off records and basically kept the arrangement of the original but just with a British singer. It saved a lot of money in arrangements.
      You can’t copywrite an arrangement.

      Liked by 1 person

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