Charles Franklin Hodge left this world 14 years ago, but he entered it only 15 days before Elvis. It certainly gives one pause to think about Elvis’ had he lived as long as Charlie. But passing at 71 still seems too young doesn’t it?
Charlie was a southern boy like his friend, from Decatur Alabama. He’s listed as an American singer, vocal coach and musician who was a confidant and best friend of Elvis Presley and lived at Graceland. That’s the tip of the iceberg.
He started singing at 17 with gospel quartet the Path Finders, doing comedy and singing. He later joined the Foggy River Boys and he and Presley first met in 1955 after the group performed in Memphis. At that time, the Foggy River Boys were were the number one gospel quartet in the country. As a part of Ozark Jubilee, Hodge was also on network television before Presley. Interesting to know.
Elvis and Charlie met up again in 1958 at Ft Hood Texas during their Army days. It’s there they developed a friendship based on similar roots, similar interests, and giving each other a taste of home I’m certain. He was with Elvis in Germany, and was there when Elvis first met Priscilla, later becoming his stage manager and a group musician with Elvis.
While Elvis was making movies in the 60’s, Charlie had bit appearances in a few, but outside of that he sometimes performed with Jimmy Wakely and also Roy Rogers. Returning to the stage for the ’68 Special, Charlie joined Elvis in the ring. 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.
All these facts and figures from Wiki and other sources give a breakdown, but more important personally in the Elvis world, “Cholly” was his friend. He lived at Graceland as well as Elvis’ other homes and spent an additional year after Elvis’ death assisting Vernon.
Years after that, post Presley, Charlie worked with ETA’s filling similar roles. I can only imagine both easy and difficult that was. I saw him at the Memories Theater in Pigeon Forge in 1997, with Lou Vuto. It was a surreal and sad experience but he was a personable and nice fellow.
Elvis wanted to travel and perform, but it was his friend who did so in his place. 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 2007, he was honored at the Rock and Roll Induction Ceremony in New York City.
Lung cancer claimed Charlie in 2006, March 3rd. He married Jennifer long after Elvis’ death and they had no children. I hope he found happiness because it seemed his happiness was devoting himself to others. It’s easy to say, where would Charlie have been without Elvis, but I honestly think it worked both ways. For any issues or difficulties they may have had, everyone needs a “Cholly” they can depend on.