'Teenie' Hodges: Stalwart guitarist of the Memphis Hi Rhythm group who also co-wrote several of Al Green's million-sellers

 

The guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges was a mainstay of Hi Rhythm, the Memphis studio group assembled and mentored by the producer and songwriter Willie Mitchell to back Al Green, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson and OV Wright, the superlative Southern soul singers signed to Hi Records in the late 1960s and through most of the '70s.

As well as creating the deft rhythm guitar grooves and subtle playing underpinning classics like the 1974 Peebles hit "I Can't Stand The Rain" and made them so distinctive, he co-wrote several of Green's million-sellers, including "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)", "L-O-V-E (Love)", "Full Of Fire" and "Love And Happiness", as well as the much-covered, "Take Me to the River", the Green track re-recorded by Johnson in 1975 and perhaps best known in its version by Talking Heads.

Born in 1946, one of 12 children, he owed his nickname to his diminutive stature. He started playing guitar at 12 and accompanied his father in the Germantown Blue Dots, named after their Tennessean home town, before teaming up with brothers Leroy on bass and Charles on keyboards in Mitchell's live band. The Hodges Brothers formed the nucleus of Hi Rhythm, the studio group also including Archie Turner on piano as well as Al Jackson, Jr of Booker T & the MGs fame. Friendly rivals to the MGs at Stax and the "swampers" at Muscle Shoals in the mid-'70s, Hi Rhythm released two singles and an album, On The Loose, that became highly collectable in the rare groove era and have recently been reissued by Fat Possum.

As well as reuniting with Green on his 2003 album I Can't Stop, Hodges remained an in-demand session player who backed the American indie singer Cat Power on her 2006 soul-influenced album The Greatest and the subsequent world tour, and also worked with his nephew, the rapper Drake. Last year he was the subject of a documentary, Mabon "Teenie' Hodges: A Portrait of A Memphis Soul Original. He died of complications of emphysema.

Hodges had also done sessions at Stax, where he co-wrote the 1965 stormer "I Take What I Want" for Sam and Dave with Isaac Hayes and David Porter. "Teenie created the groove, the pocket, as one would call it," said Porter. "That came from the way he played rhythmically. That groove was what made the records for Al Green and so many others such big hits. And that sound, that feel, it came totally from Teenie's spirit. That's what the world should know about this man: his heart is in all those records."

Mabon Lewis Hodges, guitarist and songwriter: born Germantown, Tennessee 16 November 1946; married (six daughters, two sons); died Dallas 22 June 2014.

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