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News Archive > General > 70th anniversary salute to Bodminís own guitar hero

70th anniversary salute to Bodminís own guitar hero

By Jacob Double 18th November 2020

70th anniversary salute to Bodminís own guitar hero
Bodminís Al Hodge enjoyed a musical career that spanned decades, kicking off with Cornish psychedelic rock band The Onyx (far right; second from right) and leading to work with Leo Sayer and Suzi Quatro, before returning to Cornwall. He would have turned 70 next month

Next month would have been the 70th birthday of one of Bodmin’s most famous names.

From the stands of Bodmin Town FC, to stages around the world – and now remembered by an annual music festival in the heart of the town – there are few in Bodmin who don’t know of Al Hodge.

He picked up his musical talents at an early age when he begged his father, former Bodmin Town goalkeeper Arthur Hodge, to get him a guitar at the age of 13. From there he never looked back and later that year, in 1963, played in his first band, Bodmin-based The Jaguars.

It was in that band he won his first ever award, a Cornish accolade for up-and-coming young  musicians in the county. However, he was technically too young to play in that competition so cheekily played from behind the curtain away from the judge’s eyes, his son Luke told the Voice this week.

In 1965, The Jaguars were offered the chance to turn professional but they all refused except Al, who went on to join The Onyx and tour Europe. The group played regular sets for BBC Radio 1 and would go on to become one of Cornwall’s most popular and best known bands.

In 1970 he 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 as well as many other Cornish venues.

Hodge then became a session artist at the Sawmills in Fowey, when the now-famous studios first opened. It was here, in 1978, when the highlight of Al’s career came as the Mechanics were formed.

The band became a prominent rock group across the globe and 1980 they were further boosted into stardom when they teamed up with Leo Sayer, who had already boasted multiple number one hits in the UK and across the Atlantic in 1970.

The Mechanics then embarked on two world tours across nearly five years.

In 1986, Al couldn’t resist the calling back home and decided to take time away from touring to spend time with his growing family back in Cornwall. He even turned down a touring opportunity with Tina Turner who, after going solo nine years before, had just released her sixth album Break Every Rule which reached number one in four countries, selling more than one million copies.

Al’s son, Luke, told the Voice how he was a ‘proper Bodmin boy’ who loved Cornwall and surfing, which was a big reason he didn’t want to be away from the Duchy anymore.

The following years were spent in Cornwall with his family but he carried on playing solo gigs in the county and around the South West. That was until he was given an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.

A close friend and former bandmate, Derick Fitzpatrick, offered Al a regular spot at his hotel in Tortola if he could help with some building work on the side. The next thing his family knew, they were all on a plane to the Caribbean and spent eight months of the year there for the following five years.

The Cornwall solo shows resumed in the early nineties but Al still made time for the occasional gig with The Mechanics for their bigger shows.

Luke said his dad’s first love was music, second love was surfing and third was football so, as a massive Bodmin Town fan, he was often seen watching the boys play at Priory Park. If he wasn’t ferrying Luke around Cornwall to help his own footy career, that was.

Towards the end of his career, he joined the music service at Bodmin College as a drum and guitar teacher helping the next generation of musicians. This was a passion of Al’s and something he was incredibly proud of. Luke has said that even now he gets people - now in their twenties – approaching him to say that Al taught them throughout their teens and he is the reason they still play today.

Al Hodge lost his fight against a brain tumour on Thursday, July 6, 2006 at Bodmin Hospital, but those closest to him have made sure his memory - and legacy - lives on here in Bodmin.

Luke, along with a few of Al’s closest friends organise the famous one day music event to celebrate his life, named Alstock.

The first festival was held at Priory Park, Bodmin with all the proceeds going to Al’s favourite charity, the RNLI. This one off music event was something Bodmin had never experienced before and was a huge success. Over one thousand people attended with bands, stage, PA, lighting and security all giving their time for free – not only because it was a charitable event, but for the fact Al was loved by so many people.

This one-off festival had been such a success that Alstock Music Festival was established and has become a regular, annual event in July.

Now, 13 years later and the festival has gone from strength to strength. Tens of thousands of pounds have been raised for both national and local charities and fittingly the Al Hodge Music Award, along with £500, is presented to a student at Bodmin College every year for recognition of their ability, effort and achievements.

Alstock has been used as a stepping stone for many young bands to establish themselves on the music scene, helping to keep Al’s passion for helping young talent shine alive.

By Jacob Double 18th November 2020

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