“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.
Few embraced their one-hit wonder status as enthusiastically as New Orleans R&B singer Ernie K-Doe. “Mother in Law” went to number one in 1961 – the first ever chart-topper out of New Orleans – and he never again came close. Eventually, he stopped trying, and leaned into it. With the help of his wife, he founded the live music venue Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans. He would perform there regularly – and if people wanted to hear “Mother in Law” a whole bunch of times during one set, he’d play it a whole bunch of times during one set!
Back in 1961, the song became a standard almost immediately upon release. That didn’t help Ernie all that much, though; he didn’t write it. The great Allen Toussaint did, but he considered it a throwaway – so much so that he literally threw it away, before a backing singer rescued it from the trashcan and handed to K-Doe. Here’s a video of K-Doe performing with the song’s writer on piano in the ’90s (starts at the ten-minute mark):
“Mother in Law” has been covered hundreds of times (maybe thousands if you count cheeky wedding bands). Here are some of the high points…