Charles Franklin Hodge (December 14, 1934–March 3, 2006), better known as Charlie Hodge, was an American singer, vocal coach and musician who was a confidant and associate of Elvis Presley.
Born in Decatur, Alabama, Hodge began his musical career at age 17 in a gospel quartet, The Path Finders, with Bill Gaither. At 5'3“, the tenor singer used an empty Coke crate to stand on as a comedy routine while singing with the quartet. Hodge then joined The Foggy River Boys, and first met Presley in 1955 when Presley came backstage after the group performed in Memphis, Tennessee while visiting to promote ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee. Before Elvis became a national success he commented to Hodge that he listened to him and his group on the radio. At that time The Foggy River Boys were the number one gospel quartet in the country. As a part of Ozark Jubilee, Hodge was also on network television before Presley.
After meeting again in 1958, when both men were in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, Texas, the two became friends; and the tenor singer subsequently became part of Presley's entourage, referred to as the “Memphis Mafia.”
Hodge is said to have been with Presley in Germany when the latter met his future wife, Priscilla. Hodge would later be the stage manager and a musician of The Elvis Presley Show, when Presley returned to live performances, his 1968 comeback special. During Presley's movie making years Charlie would sometimes perform with singer/musician Jimmy Wakely in Reno. He also performed with the famous singing cowboy Roy Rogers. 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 song writer, 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.
Hodge lived for 17 years at Elvis' Memphis, Tennessee estate, Graceland, and also had rooms in all of Elvis's other homes away from Graceland which were personally decorated by Priscilla in his favorite color schemes. Hodge was often regarded as the kindest and most genuine member of the Memphis Mafia, with Presley's best interests at heart. Hodge was with Elvis to the very end and was with the guarded escort to bring Elvis and his mother Gladys remains back to Graceland for reburial. Hodge stayed at Graceland for a year afterward helping Vernon with any affairs of the estate.
Hodge's post-Elvis life and career were subsequently dedicated to the deceased music legend. In 1979, Hodge made a cameo appearance in the TV film ELVIS starring Kurt Russell in which he played himself and served as a technical adviser for the project.
Beginning in 1980, Hodge was back in Las Vegas and Reno at Harrah's Hotel-Casino’s and in Lake Tahoe at The Sahara, working in collaboration with Elvis tribute artist (ETA) Robbie Rhodes in the long-running touring production, Elvis Excitement! During the last 15 years of his life, Hodge was a featured performer with ETA's William Stiles, Pete Wilcox, Eddie Miles, and Lou Vuto at the Memories Theater in A Salute to Elvis. While at Memories Theatre Hodge performed some of the same duties he did while performing with Elvis such as singing harmony, draping the scarves around the ETA's neck as he did with Elvis, and play guitar, or if it was required for a certain song, he played the piano. Hodge traveled the world annually to speak at Elvis Presley events and to sometimes perform with long time friend, singer/musician, Terry Mike Jeffery. Countries Charlie visited included England, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Hungary, Australia, and Japan. In 1988, Hodge wrote an autobiography-memoir, Me 'n Elvis; and in 1994, produced a DVD titled The Elvis I Knew.
In October 2005, Hodge was diagnosed with lung cancer but it wasn't made public till much later. He completed treatment and was told the cancer was gone. On March 3, 2006, while at a scheduled doctor appointment he started having difficulty breathing. He was rushed to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee where he died unexpectedly. (Doctors said the cause of death was a blood clot in a lung which caused it to collapse.) His last performance onstage was Feb. 14, 2006 at Memories Theatre. To those who knew Hodge on a personal level said he was very quick witted, loved slap stick comedy, and making those around him laugh. He was a gospel music historian and loved sharing stories with the Elvis fans all over the world about his life with Elvis. At his funeral in Decatur flowers from all over the world adorned the service along with pictures spanning his childhood and his whole musical career. Those in attendance amongst family was former bodyguard to Elvis, Sonny West, and the widow of Memphis Mafia member, Richard Davis. Bill Gaither, Priscilla, Lisa Marie, and Memphis Mafia member Joe Esposito were not there but sent several large arrangements of flowers along with their fondest memories with Hodge. On Elvis satellite radio, with Elvis friend and DJ George Klein, the entire broadcast was dedicated to the memory of Hodge which aired past interviews from him along with shared memories from Elvis's entourage, band, and fans worldwide. A few of the speakers and pallbearers at the funeral were Sonny West, ETA William Stiles, who worked with and was mentored by Hodge at Memories Theatre for five years, and lead guitarist Ross Southerland, who for nine years also performed onstage at Memories Theater with Hodge.
He was portrayed by Ryan Rilette in the 2005 CBS miniseries Elvis, which starred Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Presley. The series was nominated for six Emmy Awards.
In 2004 he was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame.
On March 12, 2007, Hodge was honoured at the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City. The ceremony opened with “in memoriam” photos of personalities important in rock and roll who had died in 2006, which included Hodge.
In the band Dread Zeppelin, which plays Led Zeppelin songs in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator singer, the guitarist is called Charlie Haj in tribute to Hodge.