Chas Hodges recalls: “Edmonton Services Club, that’s where me mum Daisy used to play the piano, in a little band with Frank on the drums and Fat Fred on the accordion. It’s where I sung me first song, a Pat Boone number called Why Baby Why. I was really nervous but it went down good, so I was really pleased.”
Chas has come a long way since that night in the mid-1950s, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots and has been back recently to do a solo gig before his tour with Dave.
“The place is still there, with its little stage,” says Chas, now 70.
Chas was born in North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton in 1943 and attended Eldon Road Junior School in Lower Edmonton and then Higher Grade School in Upper Edmonton. His mum Daisy supported Chas and his older brother Dave by playing the piano in clubs and pubs around north London and encouraged Chas to take up the guitar when he was 12. He started out playing in skiffle bands aged just 13.
“The first song I ever recorded was...” and here he breaks into song, “Railroad Bill, Railroad Bill, he never works and he never will,” the old Lonnie Donnegan ditty that features on Chas & Dave’s 2013 album, That’s What Happens, their first studio album in 18 years.
The album sees Chas & Dave (Peacock) “going back to their roots”, the music they were listening to and playing as youngsters, before they knew each other, when Chas was in Edmonton and Dave in Ponders End.
“It was the producer Joe Henry’s idea,” explains Chas, “and me and Dave were up for it. I put Railroad Bill on there – that was a bit of a blast from the past! It’s nice to re-do some of the stuff we were doing back when we were kids.
“The whole album has turned out good, we’re pleased and proud of it.”
Chas quotes his musical heroes as being his mum Daisy and Jerry Lee Lewis, who he went to see in concert in 1958.
“He came to play the Edmonton Regal, and that’s when I vowed ‘I’ve got to learn the piano’,” Chas remembers.
Chas was playing the bass guitar at that point and turned professional when he was 16, going on tour as the bassist for Jerry Lee Lewis on his British and European tour in 1963, and supporting The Beatles in 1966 with his then band Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
Chas formed the duo that has made him famous with Dave Peacock in 1972 and Chas & Dave started life touring London and Essex, playing all the pubs and clubs that would have them.
“We used to travel in Dave’s mini,” Chas laughs, “with our little amp in the back, and we built it all the way up from there – things have changed quite a lot since then! Our last big gig, last month, was selling out (Royal) Albert Hall!”
Over the years, Chas & Dave have played with all the musical greats, including legendary guitarists Albert Lee and Martin Taylor, pianists Jools Holland and Hugh Laurie, and Buddy Holly drummer Jerry Allison, all of whom appear on the new album. They have put out singles and albums ever since the ‘70s but enjoyed something of a renaissance in the 2000s, with The Libertines declaring they were fans giving the duo new-found credibility, and playing Glastonbury in 2005 being ‘one of the proudest moments in Chas’ life’.
The duo has won a legion of new young fans in recent years and Chas says the majority of audiences at their gigs are now in their 20s. “We’re getting new fans all the time, it keeps us invigorated – it’s like we’ve just started.”