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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Rock > JulAug 18 > THE KILLER’S APPRENTICE

THE KILLER’S APPRENTICE

Chas Hodges is better known for his “rockney” knees-ups with Dave Peacock in Chas & Dave, but the piano pounder has a richer history than most. Vintage Rock talks to him about his early session days under Joe Meek and backing Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent in the 60s.

CHAS HODGES

That day changed both of our lives,” says Chas Hodges as he reflects on seeing Jerry Lee Lewis perform on 24 May 1958 in Edmonton at the Regal Cinema.

“Not that I knew it then. I was a teenager and I’d missed Buddy Holly when he played The Regal a few months before – I’m not sure why, as I liked his records – but I went along to see Jerry Lee with my mates and, no doubt about it, his performance was the greatest thing I’d ever witnessed. A life changer.” If it’s clear how that day would have influenced the course of Hodges’ life one does immediately wonder: how had it changed Lewis’?

“I found this out much later on,” Hodges continues. “It was that afternoon Jerry Lee had met the press in his hotel in London and they’d asked questions about his wife. So, I now see it, that on 24 May 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis changed my life radically for the better – seeing him perform absolutely blew my mind, changed everything. I knew upon seeing him that I wanted to spend the rest of my life playing rock’n’roll! – and he also changed his life because of all the controversy surrounding his ‘child bride’ meant he lost his status as a star and got banished for a number of years. That’s a strange irony, isn’t it? I often think about that. Jerry Lee is, to me, the greatest rock and roller. He made such wild, exciting records. His Mean Woman Blues – the UK B-side of Great Balls Of Fire – has the best piano solo on any rock’n’roll record ever.”

Chas Hodges is a passionate chap when it comes to discussing rock’n’roll. The chatty 74 year old is supposed to be promoting the new Chas & Dave album, A Little Bit Of Us – the album features the duo’s first new original material in more than 30 years; throughout the Cockney cowboys play and sing with a natural warmth, wit and skill that has always characterised their best work – but what obviously excites Hodges is speaking about the original rockers he idealised and then often got to play with. “I was so excited in those days,” says Hodges of his teenage years. “I got hooked on skiffle via Lonnie Donegan – to me he never faded – and it was great playing in skiffle bands. We really had a lot of fun playing skiffle. It gave me that sense of what I wanted to do with my life. But when Jerry Lee and Little Richard came out it was a whole new world! It’s funny, Lonnie should have related to those guys as he was doing the same thing but he didn’t. He went his own way and I always loved what he did, but rock’n’roll was definitely more exciting.

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