CHARLIE HODGE TALKS... I met Charlie while he was on a lecture tour of Elvis Presley Fan Clubs in Australia. We were both invited as guest speakers for the ABC TV chat show that explored the phenomena called Elvis. I found Charlie sweet and very sincere. In 25 years since his death, I have never heard a bad word from Charlie about Elvis. What a true friend indeed! As Elvis would say, "The guy who gives me my water and scarves, his name is Charlie Hodge…" WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR THE NAME ELVIS PRESLEY? Wanda Jackson had completed a Grand Ole Opry tour, she said, “Charlie have you heard Elvis Presley?” “Nobody is willing to follow him.” So I wanted to see this dude. I first saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show sing, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" like I’d never heard before. Elvis really freaked me out. I remember thinking this guy is great. He was the start of a whole new thing in music. WHEN DID YOU FIRST MEET ELVIS? Backstage in Memphis. I was with ABC Network Show I had the number one gospel group at the time. And you know Elvis loved Gospel music so he came backstage to met me and my quartet. I didn’t see him again until we got drafted into the army. He didn’t recognise me. I had a crew cut man’s greatest disguise you know. I went over to him and asked when was the last time he saw Wanda, Elvis said, “Hey you look familiar?” I said, "I’m Charlie and I was lead singer with the Foggy River Boys." “Hey man I used to watch you on TV every Saturday night,” said Elvis… Imagine Elvis watching me? YOU WERE WITH ELVIS IN GERMANY? Yes we both went to Fort Hood. However, we were never stationed together. Going on the train to Jersey we both sat and talked about the folks we knew in the Gospel field. On the ship to Germany he requested that I share his compartment with him. In the first place they put him with a few sergeants so that the other troops wouldn’t bother him but he didn’t know anyone, So Elvis went to the Captain and asked if I could put with him and the rest as they say is history. HOW WAS ELVIS TREATED IN THE ARMY? I remember one time when we were all out sleeping, eating and living in three feet of snow some Colonel came up to Elvis and said we’re going to fly you out to Miami to a large convention then you'll taken to Paris to meet the Pope. Elvis looked at the Colonel and said, “Sir, there’s 15 thousand men out there who like me are sleeping out in the snow and for me to leave them and get this special treatment then having to came back and look these guys in the face, sir, I just couldn’t do that.” WHO WERE ELVIS MUSIC PEERS? Elvis liked all kids of music he had lot of albums. Various artist in the Country, Pop and Gospel field. He would often listen Mario Lanza. Even in Memphis as a young man, Elvis would go to a place called Blues Alley and spend hours listening to Blues singers. He would list to Gospel and even symphony music. He could appreciate all kinds of different and varied musical styles; he just adored Gospel, JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. JD and myself are great friends we go back some 40 years. JD would often let Elvis in the back door whenever the Blackwood Brother were singing. In those day Elvis was so poor he couldn’t afford to pay to see the group perform so JD let Elvis in. Elvis never forgot what JD did for him. WHO WERE ELVIS INFLUENCES? You’d be surprised Elvis had certain sounds which he would use like what he called his Billy Erstein voice on “Fame and Fortune.” He loved Mario Lanza’s voice in fact he could sing as high as Mario Lanza Elvis had a three octave range which is a fantastic range for an untrained singer. Let me tell you Elvis never had a singing lesson in his life. Anyway, Lanza highest note he ever got was a C above the middle C and I heard Elvis sing a high C many times on stage. WHAT WAS ELVIS’ FAVOURITE ALBUM? I think in Elvis has a choice of albums, I think his choice would be any Gospel album he recorded. YOU DID APPEAR IN SEVERAL ELVIS MOVIES? I appeared in Clambake I played a barber. I was briefly in Charro as a Mexican in the scene where Elvis rides into town. In Stay Away Joe I was in that too. I remember one funny moment there’s a scene in the movie where there was a fight in the house. Elvis looks outside the door where I’m standing with the band. The camera is shooting Elvis from his left side and Elvis say would you guys play a little something we’re have a little trouble inside, and we both laughed which wasn’t in the script. The reason we laughed so hard is that it was very cold and Elvis nose was running. In another scene is where Elvis is being chased by his mother, he picks her up and starts to laugh. What happened was Joe Esposito and myself were kneeling on the ground out of camera shot. Joe says, "Hey Charlie grab Elvis between the legs?" I say, "No you do it." Elvis looked down and just started to laugh. WHAT WAS VEGAS LIKE? Elvis hadn’t appeared on stage since 1961 the first time he was in Vegas they booed him. When I was with Elvis, he would stand there and grin and I would have to know that he wanted a drink. I remember a little girl from Japan who go up on the stage Elvis turned to her and said what do you want honey scarf or a kiss. She looked at him and said no. Elvis asked her again what she wanted and she said James Burton. Elvis roared with laughter and walked the girl over to JB who kissed her then she just stood by Elvis. He asked her if there was anything else, and she said that wanted a scarf and a kiss. Elvis put the scarf around her neck and she asked for a kiss. “Charlie!” shouted Elvis, “Give this girl a kiss.” and walked off laughing. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN ELVIS DIED? I went into total and utter shock. Only the night before we had cone to the dentist and I remember Elvis was joking around and having fun, He was looking forward to the up and coming tour. He even had a few songs he wanted in the show. I rang Felton Jarvis then I went to bed. That was the last time I saw Elvis alive. Everything was in a go attitude. Elvis had planned to start his own production company to make movies and pick his own scripts. YOU HAVE YOUR OWN THEORY ABOUT ELVIS’ CAUSE OF DEATH? The truth is, and nobody will convince me otherwise, it’s very simple Elvis had a heart attack. God called him home and home he went. God Bless him and amen. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ELVIS SONG? I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to say. Thee was so much I liked to hear Elvis sing. He had the most fantastic voice in the music business as fas as I was concerned. When he did Trilogy he would knock me for a flip. The guy had the ability to make people believe a song. There are some good singers who sing a good song, but Elvis believed a song and you believed that song with him. YOU WROTE ONE SONG FOR ELVIS? When Elvis recorded the Blue Hawaii between Elvis and Red West they had written new words to Begin the Begin, but the writer Col Porter would not let them use the melody. So Red asked me to help out with the song. I was in a hurry because I had a date with this girl. I sat down with a guitar and messed around with a few cords and after a time I came up with a new melody. The song became “You’ll Be Gone” which Elvis recorded for the "Pot Luck" album.