Charlie Hodge (guitarist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Charlie Hodge
Charles Franklin Hodge

(1934-12-14)December 14, 1934
DiedMarch 3, 2006(2006-03-03) (aged 71)
Occupationsinger, guitarist, pianist, actor
Years active1954–2006
Spouse(s)Jennifer Hodge

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 as the "Memphis Mafia."

Hodge is said 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. 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. Presley also put him in charge of presenting songs directly to Presley that he 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 was the only male singer to have 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.

When Elvis was needing to put a band together for his return to live performances he turned to Hodge for help. 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 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.

After Elvis[edit]

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. In 1984 Charlie and Jimmy Velvet discovered Actor/Impressionist Gary Wayne Bridges, a Tampa Bay area Florida native that recorded two Nationally released DRTV Albums featuring the current songs of the day recorded the way Presley might have recorded them if he were alive with Hodge, J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet, and other close friends and entourage from Presley's camp. Hodge and Sumner both have publicly stated via numerous interviews and print that Bridges (a young 6'1' tall blonde Actor) went through a Hollywood make-up transformation for appearances and actually became Elvis visually and possessed the vocal mirror of Presley's voice. He continued to live and tour globally with Bridges, J.D. Sumner & The Stamps and many of the original members of the Presley Entourage until 1993 when Bridges was offered several recording deals. Hodge then persuaded him to take advantage of Nashville calling and Charlie made his way to Pigeon Forge, TN. via mutual friends recommendations and contacts to look into Theatre Production and casting opportunities. 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. 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[edit]

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.


He was portrayed by Ryan Rilette in the 2005 CBS miniseries Elvis, which starred Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Presley. The series was nominated for six Emmy Awards.

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.

In the band Dread Zeppelin, which plays Led Zeppelin songs in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator singer, the vocalist's assistant is called Charlie Haj in tribute to Hodge.

Film appearances[edit]

Hodge performed in several of Presley's films. Although often recognized by Elvis fans in these films, his name does not appear in the films' credits.

Year Film Role Notes
1967 Clambake Mr. Hayward's barber uncredited
1968 Speedway Guitar player uncredited
1968 Stay Away, Joe Guitar player uncredited
1969 Charro! Mexican peon uncredited
1979 Elvis Himself nominated - Emmy Award


Film : Live A Little, Love A Little (A Little Less Conversation) 1968

Further reading[edit]

  • Clayton, Rose; Dick Heard (2003) Elvis: By Those Who Knew Him Best, Virgin Publishing Limited ISBN 0-7535-0835-4
  • Esposito, Joe (2006) Remember Elvis, TCB JOE Enterprises ISBN 0-9778945-2-5
  • Goldman, Albert (1990) Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, St Martins Press ISBN 0-312-92541-7
  • Guralnick, Peter (1999) Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Back Bay Books ISBN 0-316-33297-6
  • Hodge, Charlie; Goodman, Charles (1988) Me'n Elvis, Castle Books ASIN: B000AM5N32
  • Lichter, Paul (1980) Elvis - The Boy Who Dared To Rock, Sphere Books ISBN 0-7221-5547-6
  • Nash, A.; M. Lacker, L. Fike, B. Smith (1995) Elvis Aron Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia, Harper Collins ISBN 0-06-109336-X
  • Nash, Alanna; Smith, Billy; Lacker, Marty; Fike, Lamar (2005) Elvis and the Memphis Mafia, Aurum Press ISBN 1-84513-128-2
  • Presley, Priscilla, (1985) Elvis and Me, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons ISBN 0-399-12984-7
  • Stanley, David E.; Frank Coffey (1998) The Elvis Encyclopedia, London Virgin Books ISBN 0-7535-0293-3
  • West, Red; Sonny West, Dave Hebler (as told to Steve Dunleavy) (1977) Elvis: What Happened, Bantam Books ISBN 0-345-27215-3

External links[edit]