The site of the former Mother-in-Law Lounge, which now seems likely to re-open once was a bar-bar, located next to, or at least very near (I'm not clear on this) the musicians' union -- for musicians of color. Back in the day there were two musicians' unions in New Orleans: one for those of color and for the white music makers. Which must have been kind of weird because musicians being the sort of people they are, even in the days of rigid color bars, you know those cats would ignore it many a time in order to make a buck or just to play great music with other great and interesting players.
Here's the full story by Bruce Eggler on the Times Picayune site.
We're all still missing Antoinette and Coco. Their spirits will help re-animate the Mother-in-Law no doubt.
The Mother-in-Law was one of the first places I was taken on my first visit to New Orleans, and Antoinette was one of the first 'natives' of the city I met. I recall being invited to take a good look around the place, and thinking, this is part of a place that we're going to live for at least year. Is this the city that could get us to relocate from NYC for good, not just a research year? This is a place that is all about music and history!
That was before the personal encounters with the pervasive violence and the threat of hurricanes and flood. I, being past that age of invulnerability, could not cope with that on a year-round basis. I'd still love living in New Orleans, but only if we could afford to have second home out of the zone. Which doesn't seem likely, so never mind!
It's interesting to see Kermit Ruffins stepping up to his city's plate so often, to keep the music heritage's past in play, while it moves on into the future for the new generations.
Ruffins and the building's owner agreed on terms for a long-term lease in January 2011, and the trumpeter and singer said at the time he hoped to open by Mardi Gras. That didn't happen, and after a while Ruffins discovered that because the club had been closed for more than six months, it had lost the legal nonconforming status that let it operate as a cocktail lounge with live entertainment in a B-1A neighborhood business district.Recall, the Mother-in-Law was where we held the publication party for The Year Before the Flood. Betty Fox worked so hard to make it the great party it was.
He told the commission Tuesday that he "spent a lot of money and got the place all ready to go" when he learned he needed to get it rezoned so it could once again present live music and sell alcohol. He said he wants to "reopen real soon so I can get some of my monies back."
The planning staff put it in somewhat fancier terms, saying the reopening would "restore a landmark and historical site as a jazz performance venue and as a display of New Orleans cultural tradition."
No one spoke against the proposal.
The ramshackle 2,000-square-foot barroom served as the headquarters for rhythm-and-blues eccentric Ernie K-Doe, famous -- among other things -- for the song "Mother-in-Law." After his death in 2001, his widow, Antoinette, operated the Mother-in-Law Lounge as a shrine to her husband -- complete with a life-size mannequin she dressed in K-Doe's clothes -- and a quasi-community center for Treme residents and young musicians.
Antoinette K-Doe died of a heart attack on Mardi Gras morning in 2009, and her daughter Betty Fox, manager of an auto parts store in Memphis, Tenn., moved to New Orleans and took over the Mother-in-Law Lounge. But she struggled with various financial and logistical challenges, including cars crashing into the front door, and the fact that she wasn't her irrepressible mother.
"The only person who could run Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge was Antoinette K-Doe," Fox said in December 2010. "I did all I could do. I'm exhausted. It's too stressful."
Nearly the entire time, Coco was in the house.