Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baby Dodds - the root of our drumming

Dodds was probably the most influential drummer in history. He certainly wasn't the best; in fact, his playing is considered rough by today's standards. However, he had a profound influence on drummers who saw him, and, who in turn, had a profound influence on drummers to this day. To name a few: Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson have all cited Baby Dodds as a major influence. It goes without saying that Krupa and Rich in particular remain both well known to this day, and very influential as well.

While his name is recognizable by many today, and he is in the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, few people are familiar with his biography or the extensive discography that define his career. I have attempted to put together some background material on Baby Dodds to keep his name alive. Among the list of resources, there is a lot of redundancy, but each resource contains strands of information that are unique and can be woven into a whole picture.

The entry in is a brief sketch that does cite some of Dodd's influences and contemporaries. John Petters' page on Dodds is rich with links to recordings and other information. More about Petters later; however, suffice to say that Petters is someone who I consider to be an expert on Dodds, and his admiration for him shows. Bob Koester's essay on meeting Dodds adds anecdotal information to the picture. Beyond that, the essay does not contain information otherwise known. Bill Russel and Chip Stern have a wonderful transcription of an interview titled, Baby Talk: Playing for the Benefit of the Band that is revealing. Baby's's bio isn't particularly rich in detail, but does contain a comprehensive discography that is worth checking out. A review of Dodds' Talking and Drum Solos on All About Jazz is an excellent discussion of a recording Baby made titled, Talking and Drum Solos. I also highly recommend the book, The Baby Dodds Story Edition: As Told to Larry Gara , which is a rewrite of the 1992 edition. William Howland Kenney's Jazz On The River covers the riverboat era that launched Louis Armstrong's, Baby's and countless other early careers. There is an excellent interview with the author that discusses the book and the era in depth. Finally, I have highlighted Louis Cottrell, Sr. in a subsequent post that is interesting because Louis was one of Baby's teachers.

Other material that delves into Dodds' background (or puts it into context), as well as allows you to hear the man himself, includes:
Back to John Petters, mentioned above. Here are a few videos he has put together that demonstrate Baby's playing style:

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