Elvis Presley stars in trailer for Double Trouble in 1967
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In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s Elvis Presley dedicated a lot of his spare time to learning Karate. The King of Rock and Roll turned his body into a lethal weapon to keep himself fit and healthy, but it didn’t always get him out of trouble. During one recording session Elvis was joined by guitarist Chip Young. During an interview, Chip recalled one moment which saw Elvis showing off just how he would defend himself from a gun.
Chip explained how his guitars – along with the other session musicians’ instruments – were leaned up against a bass drum in the RCA Studio. He said Elvis was “really trim” and “looked good”, and during a chat one of the background singers came up to the star and asked him: “Hey, Elvis. If somebody drew a pistol on you, how would you get it away from them?” Elvis replied: “Oh, that’s easy. Hey, [songwriter] Red West, bring that pistol over here.” Chip recalled: “Red reaches in his pocket and pulls out a pistol. I said: ‘God, is that pistol loaded?’ Red said: ‘I wouldn’t bring an unloaded pistol in here!’ I said: ‘How about unloading it?’ He opens it up and the bullets fall down on the carpet.” After the gun’s danger was removed, Red pointed the weapon towards Elvis, waiting for him to disarm him.
Chip pointed out that, if Elvis were to hit the gun out of Red’s hand, it would be sent soaring across the studio to hit the guitars he had delicately leant against the drum kit. He explained: “Right about the time I said: ‘Let me move [the guitars]’ – Pow, Elvis hit [Red’s] hand and that gun went flying right into the back of my gut string guitar. The barrel went into the guitar and hung there. Of course, everybody in the studio died laughing. I said: ‘That’s not too funny. It’s my guitar!'” Elvis instantly saw the error of his ways and tried to make it up to Chip while he still could.
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Elvis turned to Chip and vowed to make it up to him. He pleaded: “Chip, go buy you another guitar and bring me the bill.”
Chip laughed: “I could have gone and gotten a Ramirez for two or three thousand dollars – it wouldn’t have made a difference to him. I picked up the guitar, took the gun out, and gave it back to Red. I said: ‘Actually Elvis, I think this guitar is probably worth more now than it ever has been!'” In the end, Chip was right. He later donated his hole-ridden guitar to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
To this day the guitar hangs in a glass cabinet in the museum with the story written next to it. Elvis’ generosity was not a surprise to Chip, as he explained how much of a “good guy” the King was. He said: “He loved to kid around with everybody. He always thanked everybody for being a part of the records. [He would say:] ‘Thank you for being here and helping me. I appreciate your input.’ He was a wonderful guy.”
Although Elvis was extremely nice to all the musicians around him while recording, he was always a hard worker. Chip said the star would arrive late to his agreed sessions – “sometimes he wouldn’t show up until 9pm” – but that wouldn’t stop him. The guitarist explained Elvis would want to record “until eight or nine o’clock in the morning”. He added: “We had great times. Wonderful times.”
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