Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Jester takes his bow

I got some pretty sad news today. One of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia" has gone on to be with the King. Here's the report from The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.


Charlie Hodge, best known as Elvis Presley's backup singer and right hand man, died in Knoxville Friday night. Mr. Hodge, who'd recently been treated for lung cancer, died of respiratory failure at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. He was 71.

Mr. Hodge first met Presley back stage at a gospel show in Memphis. They later became friends in the Army. Presley had recently lost his mother when they boarded the ship to Germany. They bunked together and Mr. Hodge tried to cheer Presley up, said friend George Klein. Presley couldn't sing in the Army because of a contract obligation, but he played piano for Mr. Hodge in a talent show on the ship. "He's probably the only man Elvis ever played piano for," Klein said. Mr. Hodge, who'd performed in a gospel quartet, shared Presley's love for the genre .

Mr. Hodge lived at Graceland for 17 years and was basically on call day and night. Presley jokingly referred to him as "the guy who gives me my scarves and sings harmony with me."

But he was much more, Klein said. Mr. Hodge, who also played rhythm guitar, was the director of Presley's TCB band and prepared the players for any changes or new songs. He relayed messages to them on stage. "Elvis felt very comfortable with Charlie on stage with him," Klein said. "He knew if something went wrong, Charlie could handle it."

Mr. Hodge, who was raised in Decatur, Ala., lived at Graceland when Presley died. He later traveled the world to speak or perform for groups by invitation. Mr. Hodge had most recently been performing at the Memories Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. He'd sing with Elvis impersonators - but only the best, said his wife, Jennifer Hodge. Friends and family said he never spoke a negative word about Presley. About 20 years ago, he wrote a book called "Me 'n Elvis." "He just thought the world of Elvis," said Jennifer Hodge. "Those were the best days of his life."

Mr. Hodge also leaves a sister, Margie Poteet, of Somerville, Ala. Funeral services are Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Roselawn Funeral Home in Decatur, with burial in New Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery.

I had the good fortune of seeing Charlie on several occasions at The Memories Theatre in Pigeon forge. One very special evening I was lucky enough to escort Joe Esposito, another Memphis Mafia member, to the show. For an Elvis freak like me, that was an unbelievable treat. Joe had come to Shop at Home to sell his line of Elvis themed jewelry and we took him to see his old pal perform. I will never forget standing there with these 2 men who were considered two of Elvis' best friends. I've lived in LA for almost a decade and have found myself in the presence of more than my share of "celebs" but nothing compares to meeting Charlie and Joe.


1 Comments:

Blogger LA Barabbas said...

I can't stand there not being a comment on this post. I'm sorry, Kelvis.

1:03 PM, March 19, 2006  

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