Aug 21, 2023 - Music

Boddie Recording studio named historic landmark

A white hanging sign reading "Boddie, 12202" in front of a brown and yellow house.

An official Cleveland landmark. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

On weekends throughout the 1960s and 1970s, cars lined up on Union Avenue in Mt. Pleasant, honking with anticipation for the latest offerings from the Boddie Recording Company.

Why it matters: The nondescript brown and yellow house at 12202 Union Ave. became a regional destination for up-and-coming musical artists, gospel choirs and touring acts.

  • At the time of founder Thomas Boddie's death and the studio's closure in 2006, more than 300 albums had been recorded there and more than 1 million records pressed there.
  • It was the first recording studio owned and operated by African Americans in Cleveland and one of the only studios in North America to record and produce records for distribution in one location.

Driving the news: Cleveland City Council last week formally dedicated Boddie Recording Studio as a Cleveland Historic Landmark.

Flashback: Thomas Boddie (pronounced BOE-dee) graduated from East Tech in 1941, the only African American in his class. He had an aptitude for electronics and after military service secured a job at Baldwin Organ.

  • The store manager was wary of hiring a Black man, so gave him an "unrepairable" organ to fix. If he fixed it, the manager said, the job was his.
  • Boddie fixed it.

Details: Having acquired and repaired castoff recording equipment, Thomas and his wife, Louise, officially opened their business in 1958.

  • Popularity surged in the early 1960s, thanks to Louise's connections in the church community — preachers and choirs became regular customers.

What they're saying: "There were enough gospel quartets to start a religion," said Cleveland Landmarks Commission's Karl Brunjes, in a presentation to City Council last week.

Of note: The Boddies had an audio advertising business as well, and cut political ads for Carl Stokes' Cleveland mayoral campaign in 1967 and Louis Stokes' congressional campaign in 1968.

Yes, but: The majority of the Boddie recordings were demos that fledgling musical acts with limited funds made in the hopes of launching musical careers.

The bottom line: "My dad was an electronical genius," Dennis Boddie told City Council. "He made a way where others couldn't. He built relationships with people, not animosity."

  • "He recorded anybody and everybody, and it wasn't for the money. It was to give people the opportunity to be a star in music."

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