Chas Hodges – my best friend

By Mike Berry

Chas Hodges was probably the most ‘gifted’ musician I ever had the pleasure and good fortune to meet and work with!

I met Charles Nicholas Hodges when he was 17 and I was 18. And not long after we started working together, I remember calling him a ‘genius’ in a music paper interview….. because I realised that’s just what he is – was! I know the word genius is sometimes bandied about much too easily, but in Chas’s case it was well deserved and rightly earned.

At the time, Chas was playing bass with ’Billy Gray and The Stormers’! But Billy was leaving and they needed a singer, and I, having secured a record deal with Joe Meek, needed a band! So, offered the chance of a record deal, albeit backing me, we agreed to join forces. So, job done, and the start of a
‘very special’ friendship and a highly successful music collaboration which was to last 58 years!

I first met Chas at his house where he lived with his Mum, Daisy, and brother Dave. I also met his mangey dog ‘Mitch’, which bit anything that moved, in this case, me!

Chas learned to play piano by watching Daisy playing in pubs, and listening to, and copying, Jerry Lee Lewis licks from his records and practising on the piano at any time the mood took him, often at 2 or 3 in the
morning when we got back from gigs! His Mum never said a word as far as I know and I think poor old Dave just put up with it too. I bet the neighbours were delighted!

Joe Meek named us ‘Mike Berry & The Outlaws’ and among the first recordings were our first hits, ‘Tribute To Buddy Holly’, ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’ and ‘Swinging Low’ (Outlaws instrumental).
Among the more notable early gigs, we played were ‘The Cavern’, pre-Beatles success, and we also topped the bill with them at Preston Town Hall, as even Paul McCartney reminded me once.

Chas played bass for the first few years as un-appointed yet unopposed ‘leader’ of The Outlaws because of his uncompromising musical standards which also guaranteed only the best musicians could be ‘Outlaws’!

There was a gap of a few years in the 60s when he was in much demand and backed the likes of Gene Vincent and produced an album with Jerry Lee Lewis. He also went off to play with other bands such as Cliff Bennett & The Rebelrousers and Albert Lee and ‘Heads Hands & Feet’!

In the 70s, we re-kindled our musical association which ran almost continuously right through to around 2010, a period in which he was instrumental (excuse the pun) in shaping and reviving my musical career, playing on and arranging hits in Europe as well as in the 80s, single handedly reviving my UK recording career with some inspired choices of material, not least my biggest selling single, ‘The Sunshine Of Your Smile’ plus an album of the same name, all of which Chas created the arrangements for, personally writing out the orchestra parts in long hand (of which I am the proud owner!) as well as conducting the orchestra and playing bass, piano and guitar on most of the tracks!

….. See? …

… As I said: ‘Genius’!

Chas has left a huge void in my life which can and never will be filled!
Bless you Charlie! I’m pleased to say your memory will be with me till I shuffle off this mortal coil!

Your pal for ever,
Mike xxx