Previous Page | Home | Print this page Print This Page

Elvis Australia : Official Elvis Presley Fan Club : www.elvis.com.au

The Story of Elvis' Stop in Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976

By Larry Blong
Source: Elvis Australia
October 12, 2013 - 7:45:41 PM

It is kind of hard to believe that it was thirty-seven years ago today that I got the surprise of our life one night while hanging out at Graceland. Elvis was home from a 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 quite a few fans there, maybe fifty or so, knowing that Elvis was home and hoping of course that Elvis would decide to go out. It was a mild evening in Memphis that night. 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 5 am or so. The joint also had a gambling machine that Charlie Hodge 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.

[Larry Blong behind Elvis] Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976
[Larry Blong behind Elvis (Left)] Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976. [Shirley Connell behind Elvis (Right)].

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. Kathy, Steve and I didn't bother to follow Elvis on his Harley, I guess because we had seen him so many times 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 Marie came out and I heard her ask, 'Hey Ozie, who are they'? Ozie told her that we were just fans. Lisa wasn't allowed to associate with the fans. I guess her parents didn't want Lisa to hear too many extraordinary stories about her famous father at such a young age.

Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976
Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.

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 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. Standing in the middle of a semi- circle was the 'King' himself.

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 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 this world will ever know. Elvis carried the burden of having to be 'Elvis' for everyone else, a task that would eventually weigh him down. I immediately focused on Elvis' face. He had on pink shades and a helmet. I was amazed at how full Elvis' lips were. Also the inside of Elvis' 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. 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 Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976
Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.

After Elvis got back on the bike, Steve and I got our second handshakes of the night. Just then a girl, Cindy VanPlew from Michigan, asked Elvis if she could have a ride back to the gate. Without a helmet Elvis couldn't say yes, but at the same time didn't want to hurt her feelings. Elvis humorously responded, 'Well honey, I'm not going right back to the gate, I gotta go throw my 5:30 paper route'.

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 five color pics of that night, where I fortunately am behind Elvis in the one where Elvis is holding the Coke bottle. [First picture on this page] It was an incredible night and one I will never forget. However that was only part one, because six months later in April of 1977, Steve and I would be the 'only' fans in the world in the Vickers again with Elvis, his girlfriend Ginger, his cousin Billy Smith and his wife Jo. Another story for another day.

Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976
Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.

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 while pointing to his stomach. A lady asked what was in there, under Elvis' leather jacket, and Elvis said it was a gun. Trying to be funny the lady asked Elvis, 'what happens if it goes off?' Elvis responded, 'well honey, then I'll be singing tenor'. So as Walter Cronkite used to say, 'that's the way it was October the 4th 1976' and for me a night that will live forever!

Elvis Presley at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976
Elvis Presley with Tracy Gawer at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.

By Larry Blong.

Aditional photo (below) and names (Tracy Gawer, Shirley Connell) provided by Sandi Pichon.

'The Story of Elvis' Stop in Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4th 1976'.

Shirley Connell, Elvis Presley and Tracy Gawer at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.
Shirley Connell, Elvis Presley and Tracy Gawer at Vickers Gas Station, Memphis, October 4, 1976.

Articles about Elvis Presley Jerry Lee Lewis, Arrested at the Gates of Graceland : Interview with Jerry Lee Lewis


© Copyright 2014 by Elvis Australia : www.elvis.com.au & www.elvispresley.com.au

No part of any article on this site maybe re-printed for public display without permission.