Johnny Dodds (April 12, 1892 – August 8, 1940) was an American New Orleans based jazz clarinetist and alto saxophonist, best known for his recordings under his own name and with bands such as those of Joe “King” Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Lovie Austin and Louis Armstrong. Dodds (pronounced “dots”) was also the older brother of drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds. The pair worked together in the New Orleans Bootblacks in 1926.
Born in Waveland, Mississippi, United States, he moved to New Orleans in his youth, and studied clarinet with Lorenzo Tio. He played with the bands of Frankie Duson, Kid Ory, and Joe “King” Oliver. Dodds went to Chicago and played with Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which he first recorded in 1923. Dodds also worked frequently with his good friend Natty Dominique during this period, a professional relationship that would last a lifetime. After the breakup of Oliver’s band in 1924, Dodds replaced Alcide Nunez as the house clarinetist and bandleader of Kelly’s Stables. He recorded with numerous small groups in Chicago, most notably Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven, and Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers.
Noted for his professionalism and virtuosity as a musician, and his heartfelt, heavily blues-laden style, Dodds was an important influence on later clarinetists, notably Benny Goodman.
Dodds did not record for most of the 1930s, affected by ill health. He died of a heart attack in Chicago, in August 1940.
In 1987, Dodds was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.