Rev. C.E. (Charles Edward) Hodges
The Reverend C.E. (Charles Edward) Hodges has been heralded as one of the premier musicians who helped to create the sound of Soul music that originated from Memphis, TN in the 60s and 70s. He has performed and written songs with legendary award-winning artists Al Green, Willie Mitchell, and O.V. Wright.
Hodges is gifted. Even Grammy-Award-winning artist John Mayer recognizes it. Although Mayer wasn’t even born when Hodges first gained popularity, he requested Hodge’s presence before doing a concert in Memphis and blogged about the experience later. “Legendary organist Charles Hodges stopped by Fed Ex Forum in Memphis to check out my show and sat down at the Hammond B3 during soundcheck to put a massive smile on everyone’s faces by playing some of his most famous keyboard parts, namely Al Green’s Love & Happiness, what a complete thrill,” wrote Mayer. Other phenomenal artists have requested the veteran musician for recording sessions on an unreleased CD, such as Ike and Tina Turner, Albert Collins, the Green Brothers, Willie Cobbs, Denise LaSalle, James Carr, Toni Braxton, Detroit Emeralds, Bonnie Raitt, Lamont Dozier, Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Revelations, Frazey Ford, Paul Rodgers, Wu Tang Clan, Jim Lauderdale, Beverley Knight, Ronny Baker Brooks, Bobby Blue Bland, Keith Richards, and Melissa Etheridge.
Hodges’ talents have been recognized worldwide, but it all began as a youth in his hometown of Germantown, TN. Charles Edward Hodges was born on June 29, 1947, in Germantown, Tennessee to LeRoy and Rosie Lee Hodges. The seventh of 12 children, including three sets of twins. He and his twin brother, Carl, made up the third set. At the age of 11, Hodges discovered his love for the piano, and under the direction of his musician father, he learned to play by ear. He later embraced the organ and joined his father’s band, the Germantown Blue Dots along with his older brothers LeRoy (bass) and Mabon, affectionately known as Teenie (guitar).
At the age of 16, Hodges became a local celebrity overnight after being invited on stage to perform with popular Blues/Soul artist O.V. Wright when his regular organist neglected to show up for a performance. Wright was so impressed by Hodge’s musicianship he invited the youth to perform with him after he graduated from high school. Hodges didn’t think he was serious but later realized Wright meant what he said and found himself touring throughout the United States at the age of 18 years.
Due to health issues, Hodges returned home and joined his older brothers in Willie Mitchell’s band, the Hi Rhythm Section under the music label, Hi Records. The band’s distinctive, warm, swirling soul sound was a major ingredient in the success of the label through the 1970’s. The Hodges brothers’ contribution is accredited with bringing a warm, unique, intuitive groove/funk to their delivery. By the mid-1970s, the band had performed on 26 consecutive gold and platinum singles/albums and countless chart-topping hits for Mitchell, Al Green, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, Otis Clay, and many others. They were joined later by their younger brother, Fred (keyboards).
While working at Hi Records, Hodges also used his talents to assist artists signed to another trailblazing Memphis music label called Stax Records. His imprint can be felt of the music of Johnny Taylor, Little Milton, The Bar-Kays, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, The Box Tops, Shirley Brown, The Soul Children, and ZZ Hill.
While developing his music, Hodges also developed a serious drug addiction and one day found himself in the hospital, barely clinging to his life after taking a tainted dose of PCP. He recalls hearing the voice of the Lord say, “I could take you right now, but I have work for you to do.” He thanks God for sparing his life and showing him how precious each day really is. After his recovery, Hodges returned to music and went on tour with the now Rev. Al Green. After two years, performing a mix of R&B and Gospel no longer appealed to Hodges and he decided to dedicate his talents to play for the Lord. He accepted positions as an organist with various churches in Tennessee and Mississippi as he continued to write songs and participated in recording sessions for various artists.
In 1998, Hodges answered his call to preach and now serves as Associate Minister and organist at New Bethel MB Church in Germantown, TN. He had spent much of his career helping others develop stellar music, but in 2006, Hodges released his first solo album entitled “Take It to the Altar.” It contained a delightful mix of new songs written and arranged by Rev Hodges and enriched by the Voices of Harmony and the Lakeview Church of God in Christ Community Choir. His traditional Gospel songs are reminiscent of a time when mourner’s benches and lake baptisms were commonplace.
Hodges’ professional music career spans over 50 years and his achievements in music have been recognized with several awards. He received accolades from two Tennessee Governors, two Memphis, TN Mayors, and two Shelby County Mayors. He was also given a Key to the City of Memphis and a Key to Shelby County. He received recognition from the Tennessee House of Representatives and has been included within a resolution by the City of Memphis City Council. He was also the recipient of the W.C. Handy Award from the Blues Foundation and a Brass Note bearing his name appears on the Beale Street Walk of Fame.
He’s toured as a member of The North MS AllStars and in 2014 hit the road with Paul Rodgers to perform songs from his Royal Sessions record, including shows at Town Hall in New York City, The GRAMMY Museum in L.A., and the Royal Albert Hall in London. Also in 2014, Hodges had the opportunity to be a part of Take Me To The River, a documentary celebrating the musical influence of Memphis across generations, races, and genres in the face of pervasive segregation and discrimination. Produced and directed by Martin Shore and winner of the 2014 SXSW 24 Beats Per Second Audience Award, Take Me to the River is an incredible journey through the music of Memphis. Hodges played his Hammond B-3 Organ for all of the tracks featured in the film and toured the world behind its launch with shows in London, New York City, and at the Sundance Film Festival.
“I’m still recording but when it comes to God’s work it’s what I live, eat and breathe,” says Hodges. “God is willing and able, but you have to believe it. If you believe in it, you can speak it and that mountain will be removed. God can do it for you if you let him.”