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Former Boddie Recording studio considered for landmark status in Cleveland

Ideastream Public Media
Thomas and Louise Boddie opened Cleveland's first Black-owned recording studio in 1959. The company was based in a house on Union Avenue, which also included a record pressing plant.

The former site of a groundbreaking Cleveland recording studio could be headed toward landmark status.

The Boddie Recording Company was the city’s first Black-owned studio, operating from the 1950s through the 1990s. The Landmarks Commission voted Thursday to approve landmark status for the company's former headquarters, a house at 12202 Union Avenue in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.

Boddie recorded rock, gospel, soul and R&B acts, including the O'Jays at Leo’s Casino. Cleveland Planning Director Joyce Pan Huang said many aspiring musicians felt “the road to stardom went through Cleveland” and would patronize Boddie due to the company’s low recording rates and in-house pressing plant.

Co-founder Thomas Boddie’s first paying recording job was in 1959 at Severance Hall, when tenor Jan Peerce was a guest of the Jewish Singing Society. A 2011 boxed set from Numero Group brought national recognition to the long-dormant company. It also figures heavily in Numero’s 2022 book, “Soul Music of Ohio.”

Thomas Boddie passed away in 2006. The company was the focus of Ideastream Public Media's "Applause" in 2013. He and his wife, Louise, were recognized with a Cleveland Arts Prize in 2018. The landmark designation now goes to Cleveland City Council for approval.

Pressing history

The Boddies created sublabels for different genres of recordings. Plaid Records covered jazz and ran from 1958-59 before being resurrected in 1970. Bounty (gospel) and Luau (Latin) Records started in 1965. Soul Kitchen (blues) followed from 1967-73. Other recordings were released on Cookin Records and Caribi Records. The disks were pressed in a former dairy farm building behind the house on Union Avenue. Each one took four minutes of heat and compression to physically press. Boddie ceased pressing vinyl around 1987.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.