The Inspiration of Dottie Dodgion, One of the First Female Jazz Drummers

The Inspiration of Dottie Dodgion, One of the First Female Jazz Drummers

Jamie Hamilton, Contributor

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s Jazz music had ruled the world. Many infamous celebrities stemmed from the historical Jazz age. One of these being Dottie Dodigon. Most known for her drumming, Dottie Dodigon made rounds throughout her career. Her notable, laid-back style had put a mark on her in the Jazz community. On September 17, 2021, musicians everywhere celebrated her life due to her passing. 

Dottie Dodigon was born right as the Great Depression began. Her love for performing arts began when she was a young child. Her parents were already heavily involved in the arts, with her mother being a dancer and her father a drummer. Their love for music and performance had undoubtedly carried onto Dodigon. 

Throughout her childhood, Dodigon did not have it easy. Her parents had divorced and life was incredibly unstable. With all the traumatic events in her young life, one of the ways she found comfort was through dancing. Rhythm came naturally to her. The solace she had found ended up influencing her life for the better. She was able to focus on something other than the traumatic events, allowing her to heal from them. 

Dodigon’s interest with musicians grew larger the more she grew up. She would come with her father to his gigs and watch his performances. Her and her father often bonded over music. They would spend time together listening to records early into the morning. He encouraged her to pursue singing as a career instead of dancing and she listened. Dodigon began touring at the young age of sixteen. Her singing at various clubs had even earned her a spot working with famous jazz musician Charles Mingus. Through the endless hours of perfecting practices, she had advanced her singing abilities. It was also during this time that she had her first unofficial drumming lesson.

After getting her first drum set, she became entranced. Prior to this, Dodigon was most known for her singing but that had changed after she fell in love with the drums more and more. She had begun performing as a full fledged drummer in the 1950s. With jazz bassist Eugene Wright as her mentor, she had discovered a passion for it. 

Being a female drummer had come with a mass amount of challenges. At the time, the jazz world was mostly made up of men. It was already tough enough to make it big as a female singer, as men were mostly paid attention too, and drumming was not exempt from this rule either. Although she was always on hand just in case a band needed a drummer, she was often overlooked just because she was not a man. This had put many setbacks on her career but this did not make her falter. Every person that denied her made her want to work even harder. She wanted to prove that she could carry the weight and energy of being the drummer–and she did. The amount of applause she earned after her first performance was outstanding, so much so that the person who brought her up on stage, Benny Goodman, fired her. 

Dodigon continued to perform as a drummer, only sometimes adding in her vocals to a song. Her last big chunk of performances were spent playing at a hotel boarding the ocean shore. She had kept this up until she was forced to stop once the coronavirus hit in early 2020. Dodigon’s impact on the jazz community was inspirational. She was not only an influence for aspiring musicians but also for the average person. Dottie Dodigon had represented dreams coming true.


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