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Elvis Presley: The time the rock’n’roll legend stopped a gas station attack with a karate stance

Incident reportedly took place just weeks before Presley’s death, 45 years ago today

Megan Graye
Tuesday 16 August 2022 17:18 BST
Elvis anniversary concert

Elvis Presley once used karate to defend a stranger who was being pinned down by attackers at a petrol station.

Presley, who died 45 years ago today, jumped out of his limo to help the man caught in a fight, just a few weeks before his death.

The “king of rock’n’roll” had earned himself a black belt in karate in 1974, after initially gaining interest in the martial art when he was enlisted in the military.

According to Far Out magazine, the incident took place late one evening in Wisconsin. Presley had stopped at a red light when he noticed a young man held down by two others in the forecourt of a service station.

He defied resistance from his travelling security and jumped out as the car began to move.

Dick Grob, a security guard travelling in the limo said: “I almost fainted. God, here was Elvis jumping out of the car in the middle of a street brawl without letting us know what he was going to do. Hell, he could have been shot”.

Also travelling with Elvis was police officer Tom McCarthy. He recalled how Elvis came up behind the men with a karate pose, saying: “I’ll take you two on”.

But instead of a fight breaking out, the teenagers who had been attacking the boy were left stunned, and Elvis eventually shook their hands after calming the situation.

All the while, the 17-year-old victim ran inside to alert his friends that Elvis was in the service station building.

Elvis Presley died by cardiac arrest on 16 August 1947, just a few weeks after this strange incident.

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Baz Luhrmann’s recent Presley biopic has caused a resurgence in interest around the singer, including a huge spike in people learning to play the musician’s songs on guitar.

Since the release of Elvis, Fender has reported double the number of its users playing Presley songs, which include “All Right”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Burning Love”.

The movie was directed by Luhrmann, who revealed that the original runtime for the film was four hours. 

InThe Independent’s four star review of Elvis, Clarisse Loughrey wrote: “Luhrmann’s sweaty, seductive biopic makes the King cool again.”

Presley was played by Austin Butler, whom Loughrey said nailed “the indescribable, undistillable essence of Elvis-ness – magnetic and gentle and fierce, all at the same time”.

The new film, which has been showing in cinemas throughout July, became available to rent on Prime Video on 8 August.

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