Dodds, Johnny (actually, John M.)

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Dodds, Johnny (actually, John M.)

Dodds, Johnny (actually, John M.), legendary New Orleans jazz clarinetist, sometime alto saxophonist, brother of Baby Dodds; b. New Orleans, La., April 12, 1892; d. Chicago, 111., Aug. 8, 1940. One of six children, Johnny started on clarinet at 17; he was mainly self-taught but took lessons from Lorenzo Tio Jr, and Charlie McCurdy. He did day work until joining Kid Ory’s band at the Come Clean club in Gretna (1911); he worked on and off with Ory until 1917, while also doing occasional parade work with Jack Carey and various other marching bands. He played for a short spell with Fate Marable on the S.S. Capitol riverboat, then left New Orleans to tour with Billy and Mary Mack’s Merrymakers Show (1917–18). In 1919, he returned to New Orleans and briefly rejoined Kid Ory, then went to Chicago to join King Oliver. He was with King Oliver in Calif, and Chicago, then worked with Honore Dutrey at Dreamland cafe, Chicago (early 1924). He joined Freddie Keppard at Bert Kelly’s Stables, Chicago (spring 1924), was later appointed leader at this venue, and played a residency there for almost six years (Keppard frequently returned to front the band). Dodds made prolific freelance recordings from 1924, including Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and blues singers Ida Cox and Lovie Austin. He led his own small band at Chicago clubs throughout the 1930s. In January 1938 Dodds made his only trip to N.Y., to take part in a recording session. He quickly returned to Chicago to play residencies at Three Deuces, Club 29 (1938), and the Hayes Hotel. He suffered a severe heart attack in May 1939 but was back in action by Jan. 20, 1940 to begin a residency with his own quartet at the 9750 Club. However, soon afterwards he was again forced to quit playing because of trouble with his teeth. Within a few weeks he was equipped with new teeth and returned to play weekend dates at the same venue with Baby Dodds’ Quartet until the residency ended in March 1940. From then until his death that August he played occasional gigs and made one recording session, but concentrated his energies on supervising the apartment block that he owned in Chicago.


Wild Man Blues (1927); Alligator Crawl (1927); S.O.L Blues (1927); Johnny Dodds’ Washboard Band (1928); Chicago Mess Around) “After You’ve Gone” (1927); Blue Clarinet Stomp (1928); Weary City (1928); Bull Fiddle Blues (1928); High Society Rag (1928).

—John Chilton/Lewis Porter

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Dodds, Johnny (actually, John M.)

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