Big Al

In July 2006, Cornwall lost one of its greatest guitarists/singers/composers. Al Hodge was unique. He was as much at home playing the pubs and clubs he loved in Cornwall as he was on the world stage.

When Al was about 10 years old, his father, Arthur, used to take him along to watch and at times, play with The Gunslingers, a popular Bodmin band (Frank Cory, Rick Surtees, Elliot Osborne, Mike Blackborrow, Pete Lawry and Pete Ellis).

His talent and confidence were first recognised at the age of 13 during a music festival at the Bodmin Secondary School in 1963 when performing the Shadows’ instrumental ‘Foot Tapper’, solo, in front of the whole school. He then joined a Bodmin-based beat group called The Jaguars as lead guitarist. Al was a perfectionist and the Jaguars became so popular and successful that in their first year they won the Cornish Beat Group Championships at Truro City Hall against strong opposition.

The Jaguars were offered the chance to turn professional but they all refused except Al, who went on to join the popular West Country band, The Onyx who toured the UK and Europe in the 60s with regular appearances on BBC Radio One and recording seven singles on the Pye label.

In 1970 Al came back to Bodmin and joined the Ginhouse, whose members included Dick Gynn, Paul Thomas, Nick Floyd, Brian Searle, Derek Fitzpatrick and Colin ‘Broccoli’ Brokenshire. This group will be remembered fondly by many locals who enjoyed their regular gigs at Bodmin’s TA Centre, the Public Rooms, and many other Cornish venues.

In 197l Al joined the Sawmills Studio in Golant as a session musician where, in 1978, the Mechanics were formed and became a prominent rock group worldwide, with Al Eden (drummer and studio man) and Dave Quinn (bass), with Steve Jackson taking over as drummer in 1982. In 1980 The Mechanics teamed up with Leo Sayer and two world tours followed.

As well as playing with some of the greatest pop and rock musicians in the business, including Elkie Brooks, Suzi Quatro, Toyah Willcox, Sad Café, Randy Crawford and Clifford T Ward to name but a few, Al wrote many fine pieces of music. These ranged from full-on rock to beautiful ballads and from orchestral pieces to the music for the theatrical production at the Hall for Cornwall of the D M Thomas’s book Hellfire Corner, the story of the legendary Cornish rugby player, Bert Solomon.

Big Al Hodge lost his fight against a brain tumour on Thursday 6th July 2006 at Bodmin Hospital.

 

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