Every drum set player alive today owes Warren “Baby” Dodds a huge debt of gratitude, if only for one thing: He invented the kick drum. But that's not all, when playing with trumpeter Louie Armstrong in the ’20s, Dodds began to incorporate rimshots — hitting the wood hoops of his drums — into his playing to "sweeten" the sound. He also loved to play the side of the drum shell and was one of the first drummers to improvise during a performance with accents and flourishes. As the most recognized drummer of jazz's early days, most of Dodds' most outstanding playing happened during his run in the ’20s with Armstrong, as well as a handful of other New Orleans groups.
Dodds’ drumming style was revolutionary in that he made the transition from strict military-style drumming to the jazz-triplet style, smoothing out his snare-drum press rolls into rhythms that foreshadowed swing-era ride-cymbal playing.
Dodds was born on Christmas Eve, 1898 in New Orleans, and was the brother of famed clarinetist Johnny Dodds. As a young and upcoming drummer, Dodds first came to prominence in his hometown with the riverboat band of Fate Marable in 1918.
Dodds moved to Californian in the early ’20s, and later followed cornetist King Oliver to Chicago to join his Creole Jazz Band. He remained in Chicago for decades, recording with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven,Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, and others. During the Great Depression, Dodd’s made ends meet by playing small bands led by his brother as well as running a taxi-cab company. After his brother’s death in 1940, Dodds played with Jimmy Noone and Bunk Johnson. He discusses his drumming techniques on a 1946 recording he made for Folkways called Baby Dodds, Talking And Playing. Even after a stroke, Dodds played up until his death in 1959.
In 1949 Dodds suffered a series of strokes that left him partially paralyzed. In spite of this devastating set-back, Dodds kept playing whenever and wherever he could right up until his death in February 1959.
—Salman HaqqiLinks Discography