African American Music Appreciation Month | Thomas Boddie

Thomas Boddie and his wife Louise were the first African Americans to own a recording studio and record label in Cleveland, Ohio. During the 1950’s Thomas Boddie built his first studio in the basement of his home, eventually moving The Boddie Recording Company to 12202 Union Avenue. They remained in business from 1958 to 1993, longer than any other studio, pressing plant, or label group in the city of Cleveland

The studio was a mix of Thomas Boddie’s industriousness and his limited means of finance. Educated in the fields of sound and electrical engineering, to keep expenses down he would design and make all of his own recording equipment, and press his own vinyl records. This allowed him to keep cost low, which attracted a wide range of artist to cut demos, release limited runs of 45 rpm’s, and makes records for national and local distribution.

The studio earned the nickname “Little Nashville” because it attracted both black and white musicians who played various styles of music like country, gospel, rock, bluegrass, rhythm and blues and soul. The Boddie’s also had in-house record labels: Soul Kitchen, Luau, Bounty, Plaid and LaRicky which released eccentric soul, funk, doo-wop, and haunting spiritual recordings.

Due to the Cleveland race riots in the 1960’s Boddie lost many of their white customers who were reluctant to go back into black neighborhoods, and he later became more involved in cassette duplication and video recording gospel music and religious services.

After his many years and contributions to Cleveland’s music scene, Thomas Boddie died in 2006 and the Boddie Recording Studio closed after his death.