Have you ever been first at something? Well, Eddie Hodges was, he was the very first Mississippi Grammy Award Winner.
The GRAMMY awards were established in 1958 when things like Rock&Roll and R&B music were taking over the charts and blues, taking a backseat.
“Actually, I had forgotten about the award until the Governor’s office called me to invite me to the Mississippi Grammy event in Jackson,” said Hodges. “They said the reason for the invitation was that I was the first Mississippian to win a Grammy. I told them I thought they were mistaken – it couldn’t be me.”
Hodges made his entertainment debut in 1957 in Meredith Wilsons, “The Music Man.” He played the role of Winthrop Paroo and introduced the world to the song “Gary, Indiana.” He later performed with Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson in the film “A Hole in the Head,” performing the song “High Hopes” right along side Sinatra.
Hodges is probably remembered most for his role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the lead.
But before he made his big appearance on film, Hodges was awarded with the very first Mississippi Grammy award in 1959 at the young age of 12.
Hodges said he met with the executives from NARAS and asked if they were sure he was the one who won the Grammy.
“They told me I qualified. I was stunned. I thought for sure they would say it was a mistake,” said Hodges.
But his suspicions were wiped clean when he met one of his all-time favorite rock and roll performers.
“When I met Jerry Lee Lewis backstage before the show, he said ‘So you were the first?’ I was shocked that he know more than I had known,” said Hodges. “I’m still trying to get my mind around it.”
Hodges went on to work in the industry for a few more years until he was drafted during the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s. While Hodges remained on a non-combat assignment, after he returned to Hollywood he found it no longer seemed to satisfy.
He then came home to Mississippi.
Hodges enrolled in classes at the University of Southern Miss to pursue a career as a mental health counselor.
“Having traveled extensively and met so many people in my acting and singing career, I developed an interest in psychology – psychotherapy, in particular,” said Hodges. “Counseling for me has been rewarding. It is not easy and I found quickly that I could not help everyone, but I loved working with people.”
While Hodges is no longer in show business, he does still write music every now and then. On looking back at his time in Hollywood, Hodges said he was blessed to have the career he did.
“If I was to give students advice it would be to make a commitment when you follow your heart in choosing a life path, then hold on and pray a lot,” said Hodges.
Hodges still lives in the Magnolia State, just on the outskirts of Hattiesburg.