Teenie Hodges, a guitarist and songwriter whose lithe touch on songs by Al Green and others helped shape the sound of Memphis soul in the 1970s, died on Sunday in Dallas. He was 68.The cause was complications of emphysema, his daughter Sheila said.Along with his brothers Leroy, on bass guitar, and Charles, on organ, Mr. Hodges was part of the celebrated house band at Hi Records in Memphis starting in the late ’60s. Distinguishing themselves from the raw style of Stax, the city’s pre-eminent soul label at the time, Hi and the producer Willie Mitchell developed a jazzier and more languid approach that still had grit and rhythmic punch.Mr. Hodges was crucial to that sound. His warm, loosely strummed chords and gently strutting funk on Mr. Green’s classic songs like “Let’s Stay Together” and “Tired of Being Alone” made him a connoisseur’s favorite, and helped establish the Hi players as one of the premier studio teams in R&B, on par with the Funk Brothers at Motown, Stax’s regular group and the players at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala.Mr. Hodges was also a frequent songwriting collaborator of Mr. Green’s. Among the hits they wrote together are “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River,” which has also been recorded by Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry, Etta James and many others.The Hi band — which in addition to the Hodges brothers included the drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson — also played on records by Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and O. V. Wright. In 1976 the group, under the name Hi Rhythm Section, made its own record, “On the Loose,” with the musicians also performing vocal parts, but it sold poorly.
I saw Teenie Hodges two summers ago at Lincoln Center along with Dan Penn and William Bell at the American Songwriter Series.
It was apparent Hodges was sick with a lung ailment then, but he soldiered on through stories about the songs and the music, playing guitar and singing as best he could.
Ironically, my aunt, who my wife and I met at the show, was suffering with a second bout of lung cancer and would be dead before the year was out.
I treasure that memory seeing Hodges, Penn and Bell, along with my wife, aunt and uncle.
Too soon gone - both of them.