Bonnie Modena Dodd (1914–1984)
aka: Little Blossom
Arkansas native Bonnie Dodd (a.k.a. “Little Blossom”) was a musician and songwriter best known as a steel guitar player in Tex Ritter’s country and western band during the 1940s. She also was a prolific composer of traditional country songs such as the genre-spanning recitation “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw,” which was recorded by Hank Williams in 1952 and by many others. The Staple Singers’ version of the song is included on the soundtrack of the film Bastard out of Carolina (1996).
Bonnie Modena Dodd was born in rural Saline County on January 9, 1914. She was the fourth and youngest child of Elmer Pemberton Dodd and Louanna Iona Tillery Dodd. At the time of her birth, her family worked a sixty-acre cotton farm. Farming was the family’s principal occupation throughout her childhood.
Sometime before she was six, the family relocated briefly to Hunt County, Texas, where her father continued to farm. When the family returned to Arkansas, they settled in Hot Springs (Garland County) and rented a house near downtown. During this period, circa early 1920s to early 1930s, Dodd’s father was employed as a barber, and her mother was an aide at the Ozark Bathhouse. Dodd worked as a grocery store clerk and attended Hot Springs High School, graduating in 1932. She was awarded a college scholarship but apparently never pursued post-secondary education. While still in her teens, Dodd formed a duo with fellow Arkansan Murray Lucas. They began performing on KTHS radio in Hot Springs in the early 1930s. They soon moved up to KMOX in St. Louis, Missouri, and from there to WLS in Chicago, Illinois, where Dodd performed on the Showboat and National Barn Dance radio programs.
Dodd and Lucas also recorded together in the late 1930s before ending their partnership. Dodd continued to perform on radio and stage, eventually finding her way into Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis’s band. She co-wrote several songs with Davis and Charles Mitchell, including “Don’t Say Goodbye If You Love Me” and “If It’s Wrong to Love You,” which was a Top 5 country and western hit for Mitchell in 1944.
During the 1940s, Dodd began a long professional association with the legendary country musician and singing cowboy star Tex Ritter. Dodd often was billed as the queen or wizard of the steel guitar, but Ritter endearingly nicknamed the petite and attractive musician “Little Blossom.”
Dodd’s song “You Will Have to Pay” was a number-one hit for Ritter in 1945, the same year it was featured on the soundtrack of the western film Enemy of the Law. The singer Dion recorded “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw” in 1963, and it became a Top 40 hit for him. Bluegrass musician Dan Tyminski’s up-tempo rendition of the ballad “I Dreamed of an Old Love Affair,” co-written by Dodd, Davis, and Mitchell, was nominated for the Song of the Year award in 2001 by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Her 1930s-era steel-bodied National resonator guitar is on display in the permanent exhibit on country music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dodd never married. Persistent ill health forced her retirement from the music industry at an early age, and she fell into obscurity. In later years, she suffered from serious chronic health conditions that left her mostly house-bound and dependent on caregivers, including her widowed sister with whom she shared a modest home she had purchased in 1946 in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego, California. She died there on November 2, 1984, at age seventy. Her remains were returned to Saline County and interred at Antioch Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Bonnie M. Dodd, 70; Country Singer Toured with Tex Ritter.” Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1984, p. 38.
Bufferd, Lauren. “Bonnie Dodd, Steel Magnolia.” The Journal of Country Music 21 (1999): 4-6.
“Fame Wilts but Memory Strums On.” Reading [Pennsylvania] Eagle, May 27, 1980, p. 17.
Haslam, Gerald W. Workin’ Man Blues: Country Music in California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
Stevens, Gus. “Ex-Star Now Lives in Squalor.” Santa Cruz [California] Sentinel, May 11, 1980, p. 32.
Wertz, Betty. “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw.” Hancock [Maryland] News, January 18, 2012, p. 2.
Greg A. Phelps
Lindsey Wilson College
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