He was born in Kingston and used to play records to the customers in his parents’ shop. During a spell in the American South he became familiar with the rhythm and blues music popular there at the time. In 1954, back in Jamaica, he set up the Downbeat Sound System, being the owner of an amplifier, a turntable, and some US records, which he would import from New Orleans and Miami.
With the success of his sound system, and in a competitive environment, Dodd would make trips through the US looking for new tunes to attract the Jamaican public. He opened five different sound systems, each playing every night. To run his sound systems, Dodd appointed people such as Lee “Scratch” Perry, who was Dodd’s right-hand man during his early career, U-Roy and Prince Buster.
When the R&B craze ended in the United States, Dodd and his rivals were forced to begin recording their own Jamaican music in order to meet the local demand for new music. In 1959 he founded a record company called World Disc. In 1963 he opened Studio One on Brentford Road, Kingston. It was the first black-owned recording studio in Jamaica. He held regular Sunday evening auditions in search of new talent, and it was here that Dodd auditioned Bob Marley, singing as a part of The Wailers.
In the early 1960s, Dodd was producing ska hits by Toots and the Maytals, the Gaylads, and the Skatalites. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the “Studio One sound” was synonymous with the sound of ska, rocksteady and reggae, and Dodd attracted some of the best of Jamaican talent to his stable during this time, including Burning Spear, Ras Michael, Delroy Wilson, Horace Andy, and Sugar Minott.
He continued to be active in the music industry into his seventies, and on 1 May 2004 Kingston’s Brentford Road was renamed Studio One Boulevard in a ceremony which paid tribute to his accomplishments as a producer. He died suddenly of a heart attack three days later, aged 72, while working at Studio One. Dodd was posthumously awarded the Order of Distinction, in the rank of Commander on 15 October 2007, for service to the Jamaica music industry.