Elvis Presley's 'little guy'
Tuesday 07 March 2006
Charles Franklin Hodge, singer and guitarist: born Decatur, Alabama 14 December 1934; died Knoxville, Tennessee 3 March 2006.
When Elvis Presley was on stage in Las Vegas, he would introduce Charlie Hodge as "the little guy who sings harmony with me and gives me my water and my scarves". Hodge was one of the so-called Memphis Mafia, a gang of friends, wholly devoted to Presley, who carried out his every wish.
Charlie Hodge was born in Decatur, Alabama, in 1934 and, as a child, he played the ukulele and developed comedy routines. He loved singing gospel music and when he was 20 he became the lead singer for the Foggy River Boys. Hodge was five foot three and, as they were taller than him, he would carry a crate on stage and stand on it to perform. This endeared him to audiences and the group became a regular feature on Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee, a television show and a touring attraction.
For a time, Hodge dated one of Foley's daughters and as another daughter, Shirley, married Pat Boone, he became friendly with Presley's musical rival. He first met Presley at an Ozark Jubilee concert in Memphis in 1956 and Presley was impressed with his high vocals.
In 1958, both Hodge and Presley were drafted at the same time and they met in basic training at Fort Hood. They travelled on the same troopship to Germany, and Hodge saw him socially during the coming months. On a furlough in Paris, Presley and his entourage invited many of the showgirls from the Lido back to his hotel suite. The manager of the Lido called Presley and asked, "Would you mind sending the girls back? We have a show to do in 10 minutes."
On being demobbed in 1960, Presley asked Hodge to work for him. He could see that Hodge had skills in keeping him away from reporters, that he could make him laugh, that he could sing gospel with him and that he didn't mind being a dogsbody. Hodge was involved with some of his records, singing harmony on the beautiful "I Will Be Home Again" (1960) and co-writing "You'll Be Gone" (1965). Hodge had minor roles in his films Clambake (1967), Speedway (1968) and Charro! (1969). His mission was to keep Presley amused while he made these dull but profitable films.
He was a close confidant of Presley, always by his side and even witnessing his will. He lived in an apartment at the back of Graceland.
When Hodge saw Jimmy Wakely in Las Vegas, he was impressed that the country star closed his show with a ballad. When Presley returned to live performing in 1969, he passed on this tip and Presley ended every concert with "Can't Help Falling in Love". During the song, Presley would hand out scarves to emotional fans and Hodge would pass him as many as 20 in three minutes. Presley occasionally allowed Hodge to sing lead on the gospel song "You Better Run", while he sang bass. Hodge can be seen in all of Presley's concert films.
Seven years after Presley's death, Hodge published a memoir, Me 'n Elvis (1984). He acted as an adviser for several films about Presley and took part in lecture tours. In later years, he often played the Memories Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. He continued to perform while he had treatment for lung cancer and consoled himself with the thought that he would soon see Presley again.
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