Johnny Dodds (April 12, 1892 – August 8, 1940) was an American jazz clarinetist and alto saxophonist based in New Orleans, 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 the older brother of the drummer Warren "Baby" Dodds; they worked together in the New Orleans Bootblacks in 1926.
Dodds was born in Waveland, Mississippi. He moved to New Orleans in his youth and studied the 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. He 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, notably Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven and Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. He also recorded prolifically under his own name between 1927 and 1929 for Paramount, Brunswick/Vocalion, and Victor.
He did not record for most of the 1930s, affected by ill health. He recorded only two sessions (January 21, 1938, and June 5, 1940), both for Decca. He died of a heart attack in Chicago, in August 1940.
Known 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 was inducted into Down Beat magazine's Jazz Hall of Fame in 1987.
Releases featuring Johnny Dodds include the following:
- Clarinet Wobble (four-disc set)
- The Cradle of Jazz series, disc 7, Clarinet Wobble