A scholarly friend recommended Patricia A. Martin’s 2003 doctoral dissertation, THE SOLO STYLE OF JAZZ CLARINETIST JOHNNY DODDS 1923-1938 (Louisiana State University) which you can read here. She has created transcriptions and analyses of solos, erudite discussions of clarinets, comparative analysis of Dodds and Noone, and more.
But an insight on page 44 stopped me right there: Dodds was the consummate professional. Most people who knew Dodds thought of him as quiet, serious and, unlike most musicians of the time, a man who drank very little (only a little beer, according to his son John). He took care to maintain his 5′ 8″ 210 pound frame, generally looking fit and trim all in all his pictures. Dodds always considered himself first and foremost a musician. John Dodds II recollects:
Father impressed on us by his personal care (chap-preventative to his lips; wearing gloves in the cold; and dieting to avoid unsightly bulges) that his occupation was solely that of a musician!
(Martin’s source is John Dodds Jr.’s 1969 liner note to the Milestone Records issue, CHICAGO MESS AROUND.)
This character study is now incredibly relevant, not only for those of us who have gained weight during quarantine. Another collector-friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous told me of a previously unseen pocket notebook that Dodds kept. John Dodds, Jr., let the collector copy down a few relevant sentences.
What was important to the great New Orleans clarinetist? Joe Oliver’s business practice? Reed stiffness? Compositions? A gig diary?
No. Johnny Dodds was focused on was not gaining weight, staying trim. Here are some of his entries, so appropriate today.
Instead of Pie, an Apple. Instead of a Cookie, have half an Orange. Instead of a Roll, Melba Toast.
Leave space on your Plate. If you can’t see the dish, there is Too Much Food.
Half Grapefruit at every meal. Black Coffee, please. Hot Water with lemon.
“Clothes too tight? You ain’t Living Right!”
They used to say when I was a boy, “All that Gumbo making you Jumbo!”
Don’t eat just because everyone else is. Stop before getting full. Take a Walk!
Beans and Greens, our Grandparents said.
Say NO THANK YOU to Whisky, Butter, Cream, Sugar!
I am the Boss of my Stomach, my Stomach won’t tell Me what to Do.
REMEMBER TINY PARHAM AND THAT PIANO BENCH.
Sadly, Johnny Dodds left us in 1940, far too early, but his principles feel solid, even now.
Have some MIXED SALAD, always a good meal plan:
if you don’t want your clothes to be TOO TIGHT:
May your happiness increase!