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Dottie Dodgion (1929–2021), pioneering jazz drummer

by Linnea Crowther

Dottie Dodgion was a drummer who worked with jazz icons including Benny Goodman (1909–1986) and Marian McPartland (1918–2013).

Musical career

Dodgion began her musical career as a singer, but by the early 1950s, she had learned drums. One of the few women playing drums at that time, she sometimes met with pushback from men who didn’t expect a female drummer – including from her second husband, jazz bassist Monty Budwig, whom she soon divorced. With her third husband, jazz saxophonist Jerry Dodgion, she was invited to play in Goodman’s band. Dogion told the story in her autobiography of the day when she was playing with Goodman and the audience gave her a bigger round of applause than him – and she was fired that night. She went on to play in an all-female group formed by McPartland, as well as leading her own combos. Dodgion continued to play drums and sing regularly until she was 90.

Dodgion on being hired by Goodman

“I thought it was just a jam session. Benny’d call out a number — ‘Gotta Be This or That’ — and I’d start looking for the music. But he’d say, ‘Don’t open the book.’ Every tune, it was the same — ‘Don’t open the book.’ At the end of the rehearsal, Benny said: ‘See you tonight, Jerry. You, too, Dottie.’ That was how I found out I was going to play with the band.” —from a 1972 interview for the New York Times

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Tributes to Dottie Dodgion

Full obituary: The New York Times

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