Charlie Hodge (guitarist)
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Charles Franklin Hodge
December 14, 1934
|Died||March 3, 2006 (aged 71)|
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
|Occupation||singer, guitarist, pianist, actor|
Charles Franklin Hodge (December 14, 1934 – March 3, 2006), better known as Charlie Hodge, was an American singer, vocal coach and musician who was a confidant and best friend of Elvis Presley, and lived at Graceland.
Early music career
Born in Decatur, Alabama, Hodge began his musical career at age 17 in a gospel quartet, The Path Finders, with Bill Gaither. At 5'3", the tenor singer used an empty Coke crate to stand on as a comedy routine while singing with the quartet. Hodge then joined The Foggy River Boys, and first met Presley in 1955 when Presley came backstage after the group performed in Memphis, Tennessee while visiting to promote ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee. Before Elvis became a national success he commented to Hodge that he listened to him and his group on the radio. At that time The Foggy River Boys were the number one gospel quartet in the country. As a part of Ozark Jubilee, Hodge was also on network television before Presley.
The Elvis years
During Hodge and Presley's Army service they met again in 1958 at Fort Hood, Texas. The two became friends, and the tenor singer subsequently became part of Presley's entourage, referred to[by whom?] as the "Memphis Mafia."
Hodge is said[by whom?] to have been with Presley in Germany when the latter met his future wife, Priscilla. Hodge would later be the stage manager and a musician of The Elvis Presley Show, when Presley returned to live performances after Elvis, his 1968 comeback special. During Presley's movie making years Charlie would sometimes perform with singer/musician Jimmy Wakely in Reno. He also performed with the famous singing cowboy Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger. He became known by the public for singing harmony for Elvis, handing Presley water and scarves onstage, but had many other tasks, such as laying out the song list Presley was to perform, and sometimes holding the microphone when Presley was playing the piano or guitar with both hands. Presley also put him in charge of presenting songs directly to Presley that he[who?] might want to record or perform, and many were recorded. Music companies contracted to give Elvis songs to record would refer to Charlie Hodge and bodyguard Red West, also a musician and songwriter, as "The Imperial Council" because Elvis would look to them for their advice on songs presented for possible recording. Hodge recorded a duet with Elvis in 1960 entitled "I Will Be Home Again". Hodge can also be heard playing the piano in the recording, "Suppose". Hodge received a songwriting credit for the song "You'll Be Gone" which he co-wrote with Elvis Presley and Red West in 1962. He changed the orchestration to that of a Spanish style.
Charlie helped out Director George Sidney in the filming of “Viva Las Vegas," suggesting a special effect on a production number; three years later, in the studio with Elvis as he pored through demos for the picture “Spinout,“ he transformed an ignominious film soundtrack tune into a “walking blues“ (“I’ll Be Back“), which impressed the director so much the plot denouement was rewritten to accommodate the number.
Charlie always figured heavily as Elvis' musical advisor, initially teaching him the rarified near-falsetto style Elvis would heavily rely upon in the early 1960s. He also played important roles in Elvis’ late 1960s / early 1970s show business comeback, first in a TV special, then in a documentary.
When Elvis was needing to put a band together for his return to live performances he turned to Hodge for advice. Hodge recommended James Burton, lead guitarist, after seeing him play in a small club. After The Imperials left the Elvis Show Hodge recommended using The Stamps Quartet.
Hodge lived for 17 years at Elvis' Memphis, Tennessee estate, Graceland, and also had rooms in all of Elvis's other homes away from Graceland which were personally decorated by Priscilla in his favorite color schemes. Hodge was often regarded as the sweetest, kindest and most genuine member of the Memphis Mafia, with Presley's best interests at heart. Hodge was with Elvis to the very end and was with the guarded escort to bring Elvis and his mother Gladys's remains back to Graceland for reburial. Hodge stayed at Graceland for a year afterward, helping Elvis' father Vernon with any affairs of the estate.
Hodge's post-Elvis life and career were subsequently dedicated to the deceased music legend. In 1979, Hodge made a cameo appearance in the TV film ELVIS starring Kurt Russell in which he played himself and served as a technical adviser for the project. During the last 15 years of his life, Hodge was a featured performer with ETA's William Stiles, Pete Wilcox, Eddie Miles, and Lou Vuto at the Memories Theater in A Salute to Elvis. While at Memories Theatre Hodge performed some of the same duties he did while performing with Elvis such as singing harmony, draping the scarves around the ETA's neck as he did with Elvis, and play guitar, or if it was required for a certain song, he played the piano. Hodge traveled the world annually to speak at Elvis Presley events and to sometimes perform with longtime friend, singer/musician, Terry Mike Jeffery, who had three names. Countries Charlie visited included England, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Australia, and Japan. In 1988, Hodge wrote an autobiography-memoir, Me 'n Elvis; and in 1994, produced a DVD titled The Elvis I Knew.
Last year and death
In October 2005, Hodge was diagnosed with lung cancer but it wasn't made public till much later. He completed treatment and was told the cancer was gone. On March 3, 2006, while at a scheduled doctor appointment he started having difficulty breathing. He was rushed to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee where he died unexpectedly. (Doctors said the cause of death was a blood clot in a lung which caused it to collapse.) His last performance onstage was Feb. 14, 2006 at Memories Theatre. To those who knew Hodge on a personal level said he was very quick witted, loved slap stick comedy, and making those around him laugh. He was a gospel music historian and loved sharing stories with the Elvis fans all over the world about his life with Elvis. At his funeral in Decatur flowers from all over the world adorned the service along with pictures spanning his childhood and his whole musical career. Those in attendance amongst family was former bodyguard to Elvis, Sonny West, Friend and ETA Johnny Harra, and the widow of Memphis Mafia member, Richard Davis. Bill Gaither, Priscilla, Lisa Marie, and Memphis Mafia member Joe Esposito were not there but sent several large arrangements of flowers along with their fondest memories with Hodge. On Elvis satellite radio, with Elvis friend and DJ George Klein, the entire broadcast was dedicated to the memory of Hodge which aired past interviews from him along with shared memories from Elvis's entourage, band, and fans worldwide. A few of the speakers and pallbearers at the funeral were Sonny West, Charlie Estepp, Lou Vuto, ETA William Stiles, who worked with and was mentored by Hodge at Memories Theatre for five years, and lead guitarist Ross Southerland, who for nine years also performed onstage at Memories Theater with Hodge.
In 2004 he was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame.
On March 12, 2007, Hodge was honored at the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City. The ceremony opened with "in memoriam" photos of personalities important in rock and roll who had died in 2006, which included Hodge.
Hodge performed in several of Presley's films. Although often recognized by Charlie Hodge fans in these films, his name does not appear in the films' credits.
|1967||Clambake||Mr. Hayward's barber||uncredited|
|1968||Stay Away, Joe||Guitar player||uncredited|
|1979||Elvis||Himself||nominated - Emmy Award|
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In 1987 and 1988 Charlie Hodge was the opening act for Elvis World's Largest Tribute to the King. This was a major production with a 25 piece band plus backup singers. Charlie Hodge would come out and talk to the audience about his days with Elvis and warm up the crowd said Charlie Stickerod, the man who played Elvis in the show. Stickerod also said that besides being a great friend to me he was the kindest person that you would ever want to meet. Film : Live A Little, Love A Little (A Little Less Conversation) 1968
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