The Lady Swings: Memoirs of a Jazz Drummer

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Dottie Dodgion was fascinated by rhythm, which she found everywhere, first as a dancer, and even as a typist. She started singing at a young age and eventually took up the drums. She defied the odds and secured a place as a woman in the exclusive men’s club of jazz.

Her rewarding journey as a musician took her from her early work with bassist Charles Mingus in Oakland, Calif. In the late 1940s to being hired by Benny Goodman at Basin Street East on her first day in New York City. in 1961. She innovated. as a woman who played a “man’s instrument” in all-male New York jazz groups.

Dodgion’s memoir speaks candidly of his music, his beloved mentor, bassist Eugene Wright, his husbands, and the musicians who populated the world of bi-coastal jazz of the 1960s and 1970s.

She is also open to the challenges she faced, including polio, two life-threatening abortions, a burst appendix, kidnapping, rape, poverty and the abandonment of custody of her daughter.

“The Lady Swings: Memoirs of a Jazz Drummer” was written in Dodgion’s voice with the help of author Wayne Enstice. The publisher, University of Illinois Press, includes links to unreleased and hard-to-find Dottie Dodgion recordings on their website.

Lively and entertaining, “The Lady Swings” tells Dottie Dodgion’s story with the same verve and honesty that motivated her to play.


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