Born in 1908, Baby Dodds got his start playing in parades in New Orleans, occasionally with Frankie Dusen's Eagle Band. He played briefly with his brother in Kid Ory's Band, but was embarrassed when all the musicians walked off stage because of his poor playing. This incident spurred him on to become a better musician. He played in several other bands in New Orleans before joining Fate Marable's riverboat band in 1918. While working on the riverboat he played with Louis Armstrong, Johnny St. Cyr, Pops Foster, among others. He stayed in Marable's band until King Oliver asked him to join his band in San Francisco in 1921. Dodds followed Oliver to Chicago and was the drummer in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. After the breakup of that band Dodds worked with Honore Dutrey at the Dreamland in Chicago and with several other bands in the city. From 1927 to 1929 Baby Dodds played in his brothers' band at Kelly's Stables along with Freddie Keppard. He was the drummer on many of the classic Chicago Jazz recordings of Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers and Louis Armstrong's Hot Seven.
Throughout the Depression, Baby played in many of the small groups led by his brother Johnny Dodds and helped run a taxi cab company in Chicago. When his brother died in 1940, he went on to play with Jimmy Noone, and with Bunk Johnson. After 1949 Dodds had a series of strokes that left him partially paralyzed, but still managed to play from time to time up until his death in 1959.