Internationally recognized, award-winning musician Charles E. Hodges Sr. recently was honored by his old classmates from Mt. Pisgah School.
“The Mt. Pisgah class of 1966 invited everyone to come out and celebrate Charles Hodges,” said Dorothy Rhodes, one of the event’s organizers. “Even when he was in school, we knew he was gifted. Charles Hodges has won awards all over the world, and we just wanted to give him his flowers while he was still living.”
For Hodges, the Sept. 3 tribute at Germantown’s historic New Bethel Baptist Church was a time to reflect and appreciate the past.
“I was playing in clubs with my father’s band, ‘The Germantown Blue Dots,’” said Hodges. “My father started bringing me to the clubs with him when I was 14, and I learned to play piano by watching him and listening to the radio. I was also our youth choir musician. My classmates supported me back then, and they support me now. It is such a great feeling.”
A keynote tribute by Hodges’ long-time friend, Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, noted that Hodges’ parents deserve credit for their son’s “strong foundation.”
“Hodges had a strong foundation for life,” said Gray. “His father introduced him to music and coached him along the way. His mother provided the nurturing support a young African American needed in a segregated society. Then, Rev. Hodges knew God at an early age. What he does on the organ is a gift from God.”
Jackie Roberts, a 1965 Mt. Pisgah graduate, came from New York to show her appreciation.
“Black students attended Mt. Pisgah from all over the county — Eads, Collierville, Germantown — all that was the country back then,” said Roberts. “Although we lived right across the street from Germantown High School, we were bused over to Mt. Pisgah.
“But our teachers pushed and encouraged us. Charles has gone around the world with his music. We are proud of him, and this tribute by his classmates was right to do.”
Hodges remembers being in schools where his principal and teachers supported his rising music career.
“I had a teacher at Neshoba, Mrs. Freddie Mae Jones, who opened the geography book and showed me all the places around the world God was going to take me because of my music. She always encouraged me.
“At Mt. Pisgah, I would fall asleep in class because I played at the club all night. They let me go in the sick room to catch up on my sleep. I never forgot how they encouraged and helped me,” Hodges said.
Hodges is widely recognized, both nationally and internationally, for his contributions to the music industry, but said the tribute from his classmates is something he will always cherish.
“This tribute from my classmates was such a wonderful occasion for me,” said Hodges. In a way, it is more special than the music awards I’ve won over the years. I will never forget all the kind words of appreciation and all the love they showed.”
Hodges became an ordained minister in 1998 and takes his faith with him in the studio and on the road.
“As a minister, I understand that people everywhere need the Lord,” said Hodges. “God needs Christians to be witnesses wherever they go.
“When I am in the studio, everyone listens to what I have to say. They respect me because I tell them to always put God first.”
Hodges won the Best Soul Blues Album Award at the 2018 Blues Music Awards in Memphis, with Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm.
The same album won Best 2018 International Blues Album at the JAZZ FM Awards in London, England. He has won many other accolades during his 60 years in music.
Hodges is the organist at Unity Baptist Church in Collierville.