Dodds gained reputation as a top young drummers in New Orleans, then worked on Mississippi River steamship bands with young Louis Armstrong. He moved to California in 1921 to work with Joe King Oliver there, and followed Oliver to Chicago, which would be his base of operations. He recorded with Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Art Hodes, and his brother Johnny. In the late 1940s he worked at Jimmy Ryan's in New York City. On some of his trips back to New Orleans he recorded with Bunk Johnson.