Chas had been a successful session musician in the 1960s, playing bass in the house band for eccentric producer Joe Meek on classic tracks including Johnny Remember Me, with John Leyton, and Just Like Eddie with Heinz.
He was also a fine pianist who was inspired to master the instrument after watching – and eventually touring Britain and Europe with – pioneering rock ‘n’ roll wildman Jerry Lee Lewis.
Chas’s early band The Outlaws, which featured future Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, performed with 1950s US rocker and troubled hellraiser Gene Vincent in 1963 and 1964.
Chas, who went on to write a column called Chas’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Allotment for the Sunday Express, had an epiphany while touring America in the early 1970s with rock and country band Heads, Hands & Feet, which was formed around his friend, guitar great Albert Lee.
“It seemed OK singing in an American accent at home but in America it felt wrong,” he recalled. “I felt like a fraud.”
This view was shared by his close friend, bass player Dave Peacock, so they formed Chas & Dave at the end of 1972.
They played what they called “rockney”, which mixed old London pub singalongs, music-hall humour, boogie-woogie piano and pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll.
Chas & Dave recorded their debut album in 1974, with drummer Mick Burt joining full-time soon after. He remained their drummer until 2011.
Chas and Dave (Chas Hodges, left and Dave Peacock, right)
The band broke into the public consciousness in a major way with the 1979 hit song Gertcha, a humorous boogie woogiestyle number from the irreverently titled album Don’t Give A Monkey’s. It captured all the key elements of their sound and peaked at No. 20 in the charts.
Gertcha had been a popular East End exclamation of disbelief – and sometimes a mild threat.
“It’s an old-fashioned thing our mums and dads and grandads used to say,” recalled Chas when looking back at his inspiration for the song.
He went on to sing lead on a stream of other hits in the 1980s – most famously Ain’t No Pleasing You and Rabbit, taken from Cockney rhyming slang rabbit and pork meaning talk.
Another fans’ favourite was 1984’s Snooker Loopy, which both honoured and poked gentle fun at that decade’s snooker stars.
Chas ‘n’ Dave perform for a Biz Session
Wonderful musician, wonderful man. Always generous, always smiling. Spurs through and through.
Chas & Dave also recorded several novelty tunes about their beloved football club Tottenham Hotspur – including Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur, Hot Shot Tottenham, When the Year Ends in One, and Ossie’s Dream.
Yesterday former Spurs manager Ossie Ardilles paid tribute to Chas, saying: “Wonderful musician, wonderful man. Always generous, always smiling. Spurs through and through.”
Charles Nicholas Hodges was born not far from Spurs’ White Hart Lane stadium, in North Middlesex Hospital, Edmonton, on December 28, 1943, and attended Eldon Road Junior School, Lower Edmonton and later Higher Grade School, Upper Edmonton.
He experienced tragedy early on when his father Albert committed suicide a week before Chas’s fourth birthday.
Music proved to be both a release and a saviour for the battling Hodges family, as his mother Daisy was able to feed Chas and his older brother Dave by playing piano in clubs and pubs around North London.
Chas learned to play guitar at the age of 12 and joined his first band, skiffle outfit The Horseshoe, in 1957.
Watching Jerry Lee Lewis perform at The Edmonton Regal in 1958 proved a lightbulb moment, with Chas determining to become a successful piano player.
He may have been a versatile musician, capable of playing many different genres, but since the early 70s he largely stuck to his formula of wry lyrics, rock ‘n’ roll musicianship and Cockney warmth.
Chas & Dave took a brief break when Dave announced his retirement following the death of his wife Sue in 2009. But he and Chas, who enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity in the new millennium through their association with indie stars The Libertines, were touring together again by 2011.
Chas also made a name for himself as an author. He published Chas & Dave: All About Us in 2008, which reportedly took him a quarter of a century to complete.
Chas and Dave at White Hart Lane
This was followed by Chas And His Rock ‘N’ Roll Allotment in 2010, which led to him writing on the travails and rewards of growing veg near his home in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, for the Sunday Express.
A statement shared on Chas and Dave’s Twitter page yesterday announced that the veteran musician had died, aged 74, surrounded by his family.
He first spoke about having cancer of the oesophagus in 2017, typically downplaying his problems and apologising profusely to fans for having to cancel gigs.
He faced his treatment with a smile and a song. He was said to have arrived at Mount Vernon Hospital, in Northwood, North-West London, for his first chemotherapy treatment with his guitar so he could entertain the nurses and fellow patients.
Chas, who died of organ failure yesterday, leaves behind his wife of more than half a century, Joan, and three children.