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Farewell to the rhythm man – Mabon ‘Teeni’ Hodges

  • Written by Tony Jones
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Scores of music industry friends and fans came out on Saturday (July 6th) to a memorial celebration at the Gibson Guitar Factory to honor one of the most gifted musicians of the classic Memphis soul era, Mabon “Teenie” Hodges.
 
Hodges, who died in June, was one of 11 kids born to Rosie and Leroy Hodges Sr., a musician who gifted his kids with his talent and drive. Just as Motown’s core house band became known as The Funk Brothers, several of the Hodges brothers earned their own moniker as the house band for the Hi Records label. 
Teenie Hodges set the rhythm, playing guitar on countless seminal hit albums and singles. With Hodges’ brothers Leroy Jr. on bass, Charles on organ and keyboards, and Fred on piano, Al Jackson set the beat. Howard Grimes would play drums after Jackson’s death.
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Executive producer Willie Mitchell’s brother James often joined on saxophone. Capped off by regular backing vocalists Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes, the team created a string of No. 1 hits that are a fixture of the classic soul music era.  
 
It was the song “Love And Happiness” on Al Green’s pivotal “I’m Still In Love With You” album that cemented Teenie Hodges in the hearts of soul music fans worldwide. Additional hit record credits included “Oh Me, Oh My,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “L-O-V-E (Love),” “Full of Fire,” and “Take Me To The River.”
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With the Hodges brothers “in the pocket” as always, it’s no exaggeration to assert that “Love And Happiness” and the album it was featured on, “I’m Still In Love With You,” was the pinnacle of soul music that helped Green and Hi Records to ascend. 
 
The album cover’s artwork took Green from the country-boy-in-the-city image to a hip sophisticated white-suit-in-a-Caribbean setting. With a sly grin, the look introduced an incredible depth of songwriting, stamping Green as a true superstar.
 
It was “Love And Happiness” that sealed the album’s instant Hall-of-Fame fate. After Green’s a cappella kick-off to Teenie’s simple, quest-opening lick, the Hi Rhythm boys loaded up to the bridge, where Green famously percolates “hey, hey, hey.” The song instantly became a house-party favorite throughout Black America.
 
Archie Turner “Hubby” Mitchell – Willie Mitchell’s stepson and Teenie Hodges’ roommate and band member – had this to say: 
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“He lived with us so we came up together and we were all tight. That’s what made it work. Listen to that music. It was just a natural feeling. “Love And Happiness” could have been a gospel or an R&B song. It just expressed joy. And Teenie and his brothers were just in there, man. He was the king of rhythm, and they were just real.”
 
“Simply Beautiful,” he added, alluding to the Green-penned song “Simply Beautiful.”
Willie Mitchell’s daughter Lorraine Mitchell said Teenie’s meteoric rise in the business was all blur. 
 
“I was on the road with Ann Peebles when the album came out, and I think we were in Los Angeles, after we had been to Europe. The hits were coming back to back and me and Von were working to death!”
 
Yvonne Mitchell added: “The album and “Love And Happiness” came out of a time Daddy had taken us all over to Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. They were writing songs and working me and Lo to death. I was cooking and she was cleaning. They would go to Hot Springs (Arkansas) to the horse races and then at night they would be writing. And there was no television after 10 o’clock. 
 
“After they got the songs together, Daddy and I mixed the album at the studio. We started on a Sunday and didn’t leave until Wednesday. After “(I Can’t) Get Next To You,” they had No. 1 records for seven years…so we didn’t sleep much back then. I was handling Daddy and Al’s publishing, plus Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and O.V. Wright. It was a whirlwind all over the world!”
 
Teenie’s brother Leroy Hodges wrapped it all up with his reflection. 
 
“I was really honored by the care and sincerity of the tribute to my brother. My parents had 11 kids in all, and nearly all their sons were musically inclined. I have one brother, Leslie, who also played with us. All of the ones that played keyboard often played on Daddy’s piano. We played with so many talented artists and great people – The Detroit Emeralds, Little Milton, Denise LaSalle, Ann Peebles, so many. I’d be wrong to say any one song or set was my favorite. 
 
“I even got to do some recording with Billy Eckstine. But just being with my brothers was the best.” 

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