Sunday, March 05, 2006

One last song for Charlie Hodge

"Well, you rock-a-my soul..."

They looked like they were having so much fun.

Crowded around a small piano in some long-forgotten studio, Elvis Presley, J.D. Sumner, and other members of the Stamps Quartet belted out "Bosom of Abraham" late into the night. J.D. hit the low note at the end of the song and everybody laughed.

"That's all I can do," Sumner joked.

Afterwards, Elvis said he was taking up a collection to buy some coffee. It was a moment.

Banging on the piano keys was Elvis' pal, Charlie Hodge. Singing lead, Charlie would turn around every now and then and flash Elvis a grin. He always seemed to have a grin wherever Elvis was concerned.

Charlie Hodge died Friday night. He was 71.

Charlie met Elvis in the army, back in the late 1950s, when both were headed to Germany and homesick. Charlie had sang in a gospel quartet; he knew the songs that Elvis loved best. They became fast friends, Charlie always right by Elvis' side.

There Charlie stayed for the next 19 years. He was always on stage when Elvis returned to live performing in 1969, handing him water and scarves and singing harmony. Elvis would often introduce him as "My friend, Charlie Hodge."

I met Charlie 13 years ago, when he became a fixture at the Memories Theatre Elvis tribute show in Pigeon Forge. He came out to meet the teenagers from Halls High School; all had been born after Elvis died. But that didn't matter. If you were an Elvis fan, Charlie liked you.

Backstage at Memories one night with guitarist Ross Southerland, I asked Charlie about "I'm Leavin," a haunting, lesser-known ballad Elvis recorded in the early 1970s. Charlie seemed to like the question and we sang a few lines of the song, me doing a bad job on Elvis' part, Charlie doing his familiar harmony. He didn't know which album the song was on, but he shook my hand and told me to come back and see the show.

Charlie was Elvis' most loyal friend. His book didn't talk about any of the drugs or the late night visits to morgues or any of the other stuff. Nope, Charlie only remembered the good things about his boss. He never brought him down, never invited the public into Elvis' privacy.

He was, in short, a friend.

I heard the news about Charlie late Friday night. Southerland called a few minutes later.

"It's just so sad," he said.

Charlie's body is being returned to Decatur, Ala., this week to return to the dust from which he sprang. But here's hoping his spirit is somewhere in the Hereafter this Sunday morning, singing another chorus of "Bosom of Abraham" with Elvis and J.D.

Godspeed, Charlie. You were the best friend Elvis ever had.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN!!
ANOTHER VERY GOOD FREIND THAT IS STILL IN MUCH SHOCK OVER HIS DEATH, IS GEORGE KLEIN, I WENT BY TO SEE HIM AT THE SIRRUS RADIO,
BUT HE WAS OUT, WHILE I WAS THERE,
BUT I DO PLAN TO GO
AND HE WILL BE DOING HIS CHARLIE
MEMORIES WHEN HE CAME BACK, LATER ON, DURING HIS TIME ON THE RADIO TODAY. HE'S QUITE UPSET
AND THOUGH EVERYONE IS UPSET THAT EPE DIDN'T DO THIS OR THAT,
MAYBE ITS JUST THAT POEPEL WERE TOO UPSET TO DO ANYTHING AND COULDN'T THINK, CAUSE OF HIM PASSING, HOW JUST PLAIN SHOCKING IT IS LIKE A FAMILY MEMBER
I MEAN, AFTER ALL,
CHARLIE WAS AROUND ELVIS ALL THOSE YEARS, AND SO WAS G.K.
AND IF NOT EVERYONE COULD GO,
THEN, THE ONES THAT COULD
AND SEND A MESSAGE
THAT WAS GOOD,
BUT JUST CAUSE THEY DIDN'T
DOESN'T MEAN THEY DON'T CARE,
ITS JUST THAT THEY ARE UPSET
AND COULDN'T.

I KNOW I CAN'T, THINK STRIGHT WHEN
SOMEONE DIES,
IT IS JUST LIKE THAT
WITH SOME AND IF POEPLE ARE UPSET
THAT SOME DIDN'T COME
SO BE IT,
BUT THEY HAD REASONS
AND I'M SURE THEY CARE
THEY JUST WERE TOO UPSET.
ITS NOT WHAT YOU HAVE
OR WHAT YOU DO,
ITS WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART
AND I KNOW MOST OF THE POEPLE FROM
THE MM HAVE A GOOD HEART
NOT ALL, BUT MOST.

CATHI

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I AM VERY UPSET EVEN NOW,
AFTER A WEEK FROM HIM PASSING,
I KNOW THE NIGHT THEY ANNOUNCED IT,
IT WAS JUST UNBEARABLE,

I DON'T HAVE ANY WAY TO CALL
A FLORIST AND ORDER
A BOUQUET FROM A CREDTICCARD,
I DONT' HAVE ONE,
'MY INCOME ISN'T ENOUGH TO HAVE ONE,
AND EVEN SO,
I DON'T WANT ONE,
I DIDN'THAVE ANY WAY TO GO,
SOME OF US, HAD TO WORK
AND SOME OF US, ARE ON LOW
INCOMES AND CAN'T GO,
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN
WE DON'T CARE,
WE DO,
AND WE SHOW HOW WE DO,
IN HOW WE REMEMBER HIM,
SO, STOP GOING OFF ON EPE
FOR NOT DOING THIS OR THAT,
I'M SURE THEY ARE UPSET TOO,
AND THEY AT LEAST SENT FLOWERS,
I DONT' HAVE ANY WAY TO DO THAT
WITHOUT A CREDIT CARD, IT ISN'T EASY ON A LOW INCOME,
NOONE WILL GIVE YOU ONE,
AND EVEN SO,
ITS HARD ENOUGH TO DO WHAT YOU DO,
WITHOUT THEM.

SO,
JUST BE GLAD THE ONES THAT COULD
GO, DID,
THE ONES THAT COULDN'T,
DOESN'T MEAN THEY DON'T CARE
I'M SURE THEY ALL DO,
AND I'M SURE THEY ALL LOVE HIM
AND REMEMBER THE HAPPY DAYS,
THEY ALL HAD.

I JUST WISH THAT PEOPLE WOULD
JUST TALK OF CHARLIE
IN HAPPY WAYS,
AND NOT RUN DOWN THE ONES THAT COUDLN'T GO, THEY WERE JUST
PLAIN TOO UPSET.
THAT'S IT!!
I KNOW I AM!!

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wish that those that are upset with epe, will just stop and remember even they have feelings
and though some may think they are only after the money,
i'm sure that's not why they didn't go,
They are most likely too upset
to, and I know, not everyone can just go,
Most fans can't just go,
and most fans don't have the means to do flowers due to being on a low
income where you can't
even get one.

instead of fussing about what people didn't do,
remember what they do,
and that's how they care for him
and included him in Elvis week
those times
and allt he funny stories
he told us.

they at least sent flowers,
well,
the ones that couldn't,
they may choose to just
remember him as he was,
I don't know,
but I just wish they would
stop all this fussing
over epe,
They are human to,
and I'm sure they are upset.
just like the rest of us.

Just keep him in your heart
happy and funny
and telling his funny stories
you could always count on him
to tell funny ones,
and never run him down ever--- not even in his book,
on a interview
ever did i ever hear him run him down, or say something
ill toward him,
he never ran anyone of the group down,
i'm sure there were wones
he had views on, but didn't run anyone down, ever that I know of.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Cathy Johnson said...

We met Charlie the first night he was at Memories Theatre in Pigeon Forge.My sister and I were outsid and took the first picture of Charlie at Memoreies.He performed so well With Eddie Miles. Also Ross Sutherland,played guitar so well for the group and Charlie.
My sisters and I are from Alabama and we had so much fun with Charlie takeing pictures and jokeing around. Charlie, was such a wonderful person.He was nice to take time to talk to us. He was a great friend to Elvis.
I told him once that what I liked most was that he did not say any thing bad about Elvis.He added that comment to the show when he was talking about Elvis after that.
I will always have my memories of the happy times I had talking and taking pictures with Charlie after the shows.
Charlie knew us as "The Alabama Girls"Which is how we addresed his Xmas cards and Birthday cards we sent to him.
We would have been at the funeral if we had learned of it in time. We will take some flowers to his grave site. I know all his friends at Memories will miss him also.
God bless you Charlie and may you Rest In Peace. your friends Cathy and the Alabama girls

7:23 AM  

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