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Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, soul songwriter/guitarist, dead at 68

Mabon Hodges, Teenie Hodges
Indie Memphis via The Commercial Appeal

Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, the Memphis–based songwriter/guitarist responsible for shaping much of the sound of soul music, died Sunday in Dallas, at the age of 68, due to complications from emphysema.

The veteran guitarist, who began playing at age 12 and continued to record into the 2000s, will most widely be remembered for his songwriting/performing contributions to the work of Al Green, including hits like “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River.”

“He was one of a kind,” Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, the current owner and operator of Memphis’ Royal Studios, told The Commercial Appeal. Under the direction of Mitchell’s grandfather, legendary producer Willie Mitchell, Royal Studios and its affiliated Hi Records produced some of the most acclaimed soul music of the ’70s. As a member of the studio’s house band, the famed Hi Rhythm Section, Hodges lent his talents as a songwriter/guitarist to many of the era’s most successful recordings, including albums by Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles.

Hodges, born June 3, 1946 in Germantown, TN, kickstarted his career with Mitchell in the early ’60s after simply showing up at Mitchell’s house one day during a rehearsal and asking if he could join in. Mitchell soon made Hodges a member of his house band and the hits quickly followed. After Hi Records’ critical and commercial peak in the ’70s, Hodges continued to record and tour over the following decades with artists like Otis Clay and Albert Collins. His contributions to Cat Power’s The Greatest in 2005 introduced him to a new group of listeners.

Last year, Hodges’ career was celebrated in Susanna Vapnek’s documentary, Mabon “Teenie” Hodges: A Portrait of a Memphis Soul Original, in which Hodges noted, with a laugh, that, despite the numerous artists who have covered “Take Me to the River,” he’s received the greatest royalties due to the song’s use by the singing toy, Big Mouth Billy Bass.

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