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Chas Hodges talks about life as one-half of a world-famous double act, ahead of Hampton Pool gig
The day Chas Hodges decided to abandon his faux-American singing voice was the turning point in his hugely decorated career.
Cockney duo Chas and Dave have not looked back since enjoying a string of hits, including Snooker Loopy, the Sideboard Song, Gertcha, Ain’t No Pleasing You and Margate.
But there was a time when one half of the famous double-act was performing with a slightly different voice to what is now so widely recognised.
Chas says: “I have always said that people have to be themselves and it came to a head with me when I was singing in an American accent.
“I was doing the Jerry Lee Lewis stuff and my mates down the pub were saying ‘Chas, that's great' but I thought ‘this is wrong’.
“It’s fine impressing people in England but you get found out when you do it in America so I decided to start singing in my own accent.”
Fans will be able to see the boys perform as part of Hampton Swimming Pool’s summer concert season, when they co-headline with the Blockheads.
And any aspiring young musicians would do well to watch and learn, as Chas reckons it worked for him when he was part of Jerry Lee Lewis’s backing band.
He says: “Working with Jerry was just a dream come true and the things he did just blew me away.
“I used to watch him every night and although he didn’t realise he was teaching me, that was how I learned to play piano.
“When I saw Jerry, I was playing bass in the Outlaws and we got the opportunity to go on tour with his band in the UK and Europe.
“I couldn't have been with him at a better time in his career to be honest.”
As well as working with stars such as Lewis and Gene Vincent in that period, Chas also worked closely with Liverpool's most celebrated export.
He says: “The Beatles supported us in 1961, I think it was.
“I’ve been quoted as saying we were better musicians than them at the time and we were.
“But I was envious that all three of them could sing falsetto together - they sounded like a black girl group.
“Then in 1966, I was in Cliff Bennett's band and we had the same agency as the Beatles, who asked us to support them on their last ever European tour.
“As soon as they started up it was just a wall of screaming, there was no let-up and girls were screaming all the way through.
“It was around that time that John Lennon was becoming disillusioned with it all.”
The gig experience is evidently important to Chas as he talks with a tinge of resent in his voice about the way the Beatles’ crowds supported their heroes.
But as soon as conversation turned to Chas and Dave shows and what fans in Hampton can expect, his mood lights up again.
“When we do gigs, it is great because the fans will cheer and clap in all the right places,” he says.
“We must be doing something right because we can turn up and forget the words and all the audience will know it anyway.
“I still love it - you only ever retire from something you do don’t want to do and that is not the way to go through life.”
On the subject of modern music, Chas says he is always hoping to hear new hits but admits as people get older, they stick to their own style of music.
He adds that my question has prompted him to turn on the radio to hear “what is going on right now”.
He says: “I like Lily Allen - she is herself and has said in the past that she was influenced by us.
“She is someone whose songs will still be played in 20 years time.”
Chas and Dave are all too often wrongly derided as a “novelty act” but anybody who has taken the time to listen to their music and discover their back story will know this is a lazy assumption to make.
Chas might have played with the stars throughout his long, illustrious career but there is no doubt he is considered as a star himself within the industry and beyond.
Chas and Dave (and the Blockheads); Hampton Swimming Pool, High Street, Hampton; July 19; adult tickets £29.50, children £17; for more details, visit hamptonpool.co.uk.
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