Chas Hodges – A life in music
Chas was born on the 28th December to Daisy and Albert Hodges. His earliest memories were when he was about 3; “music was amongst the most vivid of ‘em.” His mum played the piano which she taught herself with the aid of his Nan, who had a great ear for music. His first instrument was an old Spanish guitar that his mum got him from his Uncle Alf. It was the same guitar she remembered having around the house when she was a kid. Rock ‘n’ Roll was his first love and at the age of 14 he bought a banjo for one shilling at a jumble sale and joined his first band, the Horseshoe Skiffle Group.
Now playing bass, Chas joined Billy Gray and the Stormers and had regular gigs at the Kings Head in Edmonton where Chas first met his wife, Joan. Following this he was asked by Joe Meek to play bass in Mike Berry’s backing band, forming The Outlaws with Reg Hawkins, Billy Kuy and Bobby Graham. He was with Reg when he learned his first chords on the piano.
“Apart from having the same sense of humour, we had the same taste in music. We were also Jerry Lee fans.” Around ’62 the original Outlaws folded. Subsequent members of The Outlaws included Harvey Hinsley, Ken Lundgren, Roger ‘Scratch’ Mingaye, Bobby Graham, Don Groom, Mick Underwood and Richie Blackmore.
In 1963 Chas got a call from Don Arden wanting The Outlaws as a backing group for Jerry Lee and Gene Vincent, both of them his Rock ‘n’ Roll heroes! Jerry Lee was to become a major inspiration in Chas’s musical life. As Chas said “It was the guitar I started playing when I was 10, but in 1958, I saw Jerry Lee Lewis play at the Edmonton Regal. From that moment on, I vowed to play the piano.”
CLIFF BENNETT & THE REBEL ROUSERS
Chas first met Dave in 1963 when His mate Brian Juniper stopped his car to give him a lift after he saw him walking home from Joan’s . Dave was in the car too, he was In Brian’s skiffle band. They immediately hit it off through their love of good music and went on to form a bond that was to last.
In ’65 Chas got a call from the singer from his favorite band at the time, Cliff Bennett; asking him to join the Rebel Rousers. The line-up when he joined was Cliff on vocals, Mick Burt on drums (later to be Chas and Dave’s drummer), Roy Young, Dave Wendells, Sid Phillips and Moss Groves. Joan was in America at this time training to be a Playboy Bunny Girl and Chas missed her like mad. It was at this point that Chas and Dave started knocking around together. Dave used to go to Rebel Rousers gigs and on Chas’s nights off they’d go and see a band, usually at the Cooks Ferry Inn in Edmonton. He and Dave played there one night. It must have been the first Chas and Dave gig. They took their banjos down to ‘Folk Night’ and went on as Stoker and Wart, (nicknames from the Rebel Rousers,) and did ‘Grandfather’s Clock’. It went down a storm! They started getting invited to parties and the playing partnership began.
Got to Get You into My Life!
In 1966 they got offered a tour of Germany with the Beatles. “One night the Beatles invited us into their dressing room for a preview of their new album. As yet it didn’t have a title. It ended up being called ‘Revolver.’ When it got to the track Got to Get You Into My Life,’ Paul said “Listen to this. I think it would be a good one for your band.” He was right. Paul produced it and played the piano bit that leads into the solo. I remember being impressed with the finished product. It sounded like a hit, and it was.”
The record was in the charts when Chas and Joan got married and the following year, their first daughter Juliet was born.
HEADS, HANDS & FEET
After the Rebel Rousers split in ’68 Black Claw was formed comprising of Dave Peacock,
Harvey Hinsley and Mick Burt, and they recorded their debut single ‘The Great Divide’.
Following a few good gigs, Harvey got a call to join Hot Chocolate, Dave joined a country
and western band called the Tumbleweeds, and Chas got a call from Albert Lee.
Heads, Hands and Feet were formed in 1970.
The line-up was Chas, Albert, Tony Colton, Ray ‘Smiffy’ Smith, Mike O’Neil and Pete Gavin. Shortly after forming they went to America for an extensive successful tour. Just before he left for America for the second tour, Joan, Juliet, Chas and their new addition Katie moved from a tower block in Edmonton to a little bungalow in Broxbourne.“It was heaven”.
It was while in America Chas, got thinking about a definitive direction. He had always sung with an American accent; all English pop bands did, but he began to have the feeling that there was something not quite real about it. He didn’t want to lose the Rock ‘n’ Roll feel but felt there must have been a way of keeping his own accent. Jerry Lee, Little Richard and Fats Domino sang in their own accents, that’s why he liked them; they were real. He thought everyone should sing in their own naturalised accent so it’s what he decided to do.
Chas and Dave were born in November 1972. “Both my wife Joan and Dave’s wife Sue were really pleased about the idea. They had become close friends.” First and foremost in his mind was to earn some money to pay the rent and feed the family. He was also ready to give up the bass and take on piano (his favourite instrument) as number one. This pleased his mum Daisy. As he once said “People always look happy when they are singing, especially when someone is playing the piano. Why don’t they do this all the time?”
Chas and Dave hand built their own studio at the bottom of Chas’s garden (another of his passions).
Son Nik was born and ‘Life was good!’ Unsurprisingly, all three kids turned out to be
musicians with Juliet on piano/synth, Kate on piano and vocals, and Nik playing drums,
guitar and keyboard. Life at home was always full of wonderful music from all eras!
Fellow Rebel Rouser Mick joined later and stayed on the drum stool until his well-earned retirement in 2009.
‘One Fing and Anuvver’ was the first breakthrough for their style which was to become known as Rockney, a blend of Cockney and Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was later to become the name of their 1978 album as well as the name of their own record label A year later they were spotted by an advertising executive at a pub gig who signed them up to make ads for Courage Best and lucrative popularity naturally resulted as well as rewards for the ads themselves. ‘Gertcha’ became their first top 20 chart entry. They followed up with ‘The Sideboard Song’, ‘Love Song’ (which was written for Joan), and their two most successful singles; ‘Rabbit’ and the outstanding ballad ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’.
Chas and Dave’s career was soaring at a rapid rate with regular appearances on our screens as well as their own TV specials which boosted their profile to household name status.
More popular recordings came along with ‘Margate’ and ‘London Girls’ and a move into the sporting world collaborating with Tottenham Hotspur FC on their FA Cup Final songs and the Matchroom Mob on ‘Snooker Loopy’ in 1986. Perhaps the high point of the decade though was being presented with the red book by Eamonn Andrews on the TV show ‘This is Your Life’ during the shows heyday in 1985. On the show was Lonnie Donnegan, a musical influence and good friend.They wrote the song Lonnie D for him.
Throughout the 90’s they switched their attention to new projects. They worked with the late Johnny Speight, creator of Alf Garnet on the musical “Til Death us Do Part”. They also recorded a collection of songs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE day. This hit number 2 in the charts.
In 1998 they had an unexpected breakthrough in America when radio stations started playing their track ‘Flying’ in heavy rotation, resulting in overwhelming public response. This led to them being snapped up by US label Cleveland International and the ‘World of Chas and Dave’ album was released winning them scores of fans in the states, including Jack Clement; legendary engineer at Sun Studios, who is credited with discovering Jerry Lee Lewis. In the new century Chas and Dave’s appeal was never greater or more varied. The audiences were getting younger. When the Libertines were asked who they wanted on the bill with them for their London shows in 2003/4, they didn’t hesitate in saying Chas and Dave. The shows at Brixton Academy and Kentish Town Forum were a huge success with Pete and Carl from the band joining Chas and Dave on stage for a couple of numbers. The year also saw their long overdue debut at Glastonbury Festival, and they packed out the stage with over 30,000 fans singing along. The year ended on another high with a sold out Christmas Beano at the Shepherds Bush Empire, which was filmed by EMI for a debut DVD release.
2007 saw the release of the album ‘Chas and J.I. – Before We Grow Too Old’. Chas worked with J.I. Allison who was the drummer in Buddy Holly’s backing band – The Crickets.
2009 – In 2009 Dave’s wife Sue, an incredible woman, passed away. Both her and Joan were the great women behind the great men.
In the wake of this Dave decided to retire from the band. Chas had already been writing solo material as an extra project and continued with this, releasing a solo album simply titled ‘Chas Hodges.’ He continued to gig with his son Nik on the drums and Darren Juniper on bass.
In 2011 Chas and Dave reunited for a hugely successful tour with Nik as their drummer. Highlights included three sold out nights at the Indigo O2 as well as storming sell out dates at the Liverpool Cavern Club and the Glasgow O2 ABC.
In 2013 Chas and Dave marked the 50th anniversary of their friendship by signing a new record deal with Warner Music Entertainment and releasing ‘That’s What Happens’ which was recorded in Studio 2 Abbey Road – The Beatles Room, with special guests including Albert Lee, Martin Taylor, J.I. Allison, Jools Holland and Hugh Laurie, produced by Joe Henry. They finished the year by appearing at the Royal Variety Performance and provided the shows finale piece with ‘London Girls’.
They confirmed their resurgence in 2014 by selling out their headline show at the Royal
Albert Hall, and being presented with the Nordoff Robbins Icon award for lifetime
In 2015 they performed at the 70th Anniversary of VE day at Royal Horse guards in front of 15000 people and a live BBC audience.
In 2018, Chas & Dave released what was to be their final album of new songs “A Little Bit of Us”, and marked the occasion with their most spectacular show ever – another sell-out Royal Albert Hall date complete with string and brass sections.
Fittingly, Chas’ final performance was to be with Dave in front of a crowd of over 50,000 at Hyde Park in the Summer of 2018. Not a bad way to go out!
But Chas’ musical legacy doesn’t end there as he has co-written brand news songs with Paul Whitehouse for the ‘Only Fools and Horses’ stage musical. And with so much unreleased, recorded material in the can. We’ve certainly not heard the last.
“Fifty years of Pianos, guitars, banjos, sing ups and songwriting. We’ve experienced every kind of emotion together and shared some special times. I’ve been so lucky to have spent more than half my life with such a special friend and great musician.
Miss ya Mate.“
Dave Peacock 2018