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|ELVIS AT VICKERS GAS STATION, OCT 4 1976
May 05, 2016 - Larry Blong / Elvis Express Radio
Can it really be 40 years since Elvis stopped into the Vicker's gas station in the early morning hours of October 4th 1976? Elvis stayed for well over a half hour and spoke to the
He also showed us a very rare black diamond and the "fantastic job" that someone did on the painting on the front of the Harley. Elvis took the time to admonish "the boys" who
seemed to be in a hurry to go. Elvis told them that "when the fans stop coming around, that's when we stop riding motorcycles."
Elvis never forgot that it was the fans who made it all possible. Too bad some of his so called best buddies didn't realize that. As a fan all I can say is that Elvis was everything and
more that his image led us to believe.
Always respectful, accommodating and willing to spend time with the fans. That's why there will never be another star so great and so humble at the same time.
A story on what transpired that magical night.....a story from the early morning of Oct 4th 1976 when Elvis stopped into the Vicker's gas station on Elvis Presley Boulevard in
Kind of hard to believe that it was thirty-eight years ago today that we got the surprise of our life one night while hanging out at Graceland. Elvis was home from the tour and
decided to take out the Harley and go riding with a few of the boys. My brother Steve and I were at the Gate having arrived around six p.m.
There were a few fans there, maybe fifty or so, knowing that Elvis was home and hoping of course that Elvis would decide to go out. Elvis used to go and play racquetball at the
Tanner Building, but since Elvis had the racquetball building built in his backyard that reason was off the board.
It was a mild evening in Memphis that night. I just checked the historical records for that night and at 4 am it was 63 degrees. Around midnight we were joined by Kathy whose
parents owned the Hickory Log Restaurant, which was located right across the street from Graceland. The place had a jukebox, loaded with Elvis records natch,and specialized in
making burgers and other fast foods. It was open all night, which was great for Steve and I, since we usually hung out at the gate until Elvis hit the sack around 5am so.
The joint also had a gambling machine that Charlie Hodge, Elvis' scarf man and Army buddy, used to play. Elvis' cousin and guard Harold Lloyd was also hooked on this game
which required knocking silver pinball sized balls into certain holes. It was only for entertainment but they paid you off on the side.
Around 3 am or so Elvis ventured outside and fired up his Harley. Shortly thereafter Elvis came motoring down the drive with a few of the boys in tow. We caught a great glimpse of
Elvis as he always slowed down at the gate in order to acknowledge and wave to the fans. Elvis never forgot the fans and always remembered that without the fans it might be back
to Precision Tool or driving a truck.
Kathy, Steve and I didn't bother to follow Elvis on his Harley, I guess because we had seen him so many times come in and out of the gates. So, for some reason I guess that time
has erased, we all ventured up the back gate to talk with Ozie, a guard who was on duty that night. While there Lisa came out and I heard her ask, "Hey Ozie, who are they? Ozie
told her we were just fans. Lisa wasn't allowed to associate with the fans. I guess her parents didn't want her to hear too many extraordinary stories about her famous father at
such a young age.
Ozie was married to one of Elvis' cooks, Pauline. Elvis hired people on the basis of their character, and never their race. Superstars like Sammy Davis Jr. and the "greatest",
Muhammad Ali, have only the highest words of praise when talking about Elvis. Little did Kathy, Steve and I realize that in just a few minutes our lives would be catapulted into a
different dimension, standing face to face with Elvis Presley himself.
Running up the hill from the street, from the front gate, was Elvis' cousin Harold Loyd. Harold was on duty this night and seemed to have something important to say. Harold was a
few years older than Elvis and told me once that Elvis was best man when he married. He said that when Elvis was a teenager he used to come over to his house and raid the
refrigerator. Anyway, Harold blurted out that Elvis was in the Vickers gas station and had been in there for fifteen minutes.
So the three of us scampered down the hill and got into Kathy's Trans Am. In less than a minute we pulled into the Vickers and standing in the middle of out to shake hands with me
before I put mine out to greet him. To me this just showed how humble and gracious Elvis Presley was, despite the fact that he is the greatest entertainer the world will ever know.
Elvis carried the burden of having to be "Elvis" for everybody else, a task that would eventually weigh him down. I immediately focused a semi-circle was the "King"
I couldn't really believe what was happening. I mean how do you walk up to Elvis Presley? But it was real. I walked up to Elvis and he actually stuck his hand in on Elvis' face. He
was wearing pink tinted shades. I was amazed at how full Elvis' lips were. The inside of his sideburns were gray.
Elvis took a glove off and showed us a black diamond that he said was very rare. While talking to Memphis resident Alan Wade, I think his name was, Elvis said that whoever did the
painting on his Harley "did a fantastic job". Elvis signed a credit card for 83 cents worth of gas. I guess that's all the Harley could hold. Elvis was drinking a Coke and a fan asked if
she could have the empty bottle. Of course Elvis obliged. It is amazing that anything Elvis touches, cups, sheets, pillow cases or whatever becomes gold to his fans. Do you hear
that for Sinatra or the Beatles?
The Beatles themselves were in awe of Elvis. When they met in California, Elvis told them in a joking way, "If ya'll are just gonna stare at me, then I'm going to bed".
Elvis asked the boys for a cigar, and when they came up empty Elvis slapped his chest with both hands several times and said, "What is this, what exactly is this? Then they must
have made a motion to leave and Elvis said, " You don't say when to go man, you don't say when to go." Elvis seemed a little tipsy and later when I asked Harold, he told me it must
be his medication. After Elvis slowly got back on the bike, Steve and I got our second handshakes of the night. I actually offered Elvis some advice telling him to get out more.
Imagine me giving Elvis advice, but I seemed to sense that something wasn't right. Just then a girl, Cindy Van Plew from Michigan, asked Elvis if she could have a ride back to the
Without a helmet Elvis couldn't say yes, but at the same time didn't want to hurt her feelings. Elvis humorously said, Well honey I'm not going right back to the gate, I gotta go throw
my 5:30 paper route." The crowd laughed and with that the King and His Court pulled out of the Vickers.
There was a 15 minute color film taken that night by "Buttons". We were promised a copy by her but never did get it. A short version was on You Tube for awhile under the title
"Elvis dressed as a cop" but has since disappeared. Someone sent me 5 color pics of that night where I fortunately am behind Elvis in the one where Elvis is holding the Coke
An incredible night and one I will never forget, but that was only Part 1 because later in April of 1977, Steve and I would be the "only" fans in the world with Elvis, his girlfriend
Ginger, his cousin Billy Smith and his wife Jo. Another story for another day.
One more detail about that Fall night in October of 1976. Before we got there I heard that Elvis had said something about it being a shame that he had to carry all this stuff in here
pointing to his stomach. A lady asked what was in there under Elvis' stomach? Elvis told her it was a gun. Trying to be funny a lady asked "well Elvis, what happens if it goes off?"
"Well honey, Elvis said, I guess I'll be singing tenor."
by Larry Blong
P.S. I think it would be nice if something like a plaque was erected at the spot where the Vickers gas station used to be commemorating that on October 4th of 1976, at around 3 or
4am, Elvis Presley, riding his Harley, chose to pull off the road and spend some 40 minutes or so with his fans.
Being so close to Elvis was even better than having a front row seat at one of the concerts. It was the rarest of opportunities to see a bit of the human side of the Superman we all
That night we found Elvis to be humble, funny, entertaining and gracious. When the "boys" were in kind of a rush to leave, Elvis advised them saying, "when the fans stop coming,
that's when we stop riding motorcycles." That right there says it all about the kind of person Elvis was and why his fans will never stop Loving You Elvis!
Most of us have seen the photo's shown below of Elvis at a Memphis petrol (Gas) station, taken in October 1976 with a group of fans lucky enough to be there at the time. But how
many have heard a first hand account of this moment in Elvis history? Well you are about to, thanks to one of our regular listeners who was one of those lucky fans and shares it
here with us at ELVIS EXPRESS RADIO..
Larry Blong takes up the story.....