A Studio B Story Involving an Elvis Karate Demonstration – And Chip Young’s Guitar

Mar 27, 2019

Atlanta-born guitarist Chip Young played on numerous Elvis Presley sessions held at RCA Studio B. A legendary session story involves a karate demonstration by Elvis that resulted in a pistol traveling into the custom-made, Conde Hermanos Spanish classic guitar owned by Chip Young. The Studio B session took place on May 17, 1971. Songs that Elvis recorded that night included “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (written by Kris Kristofferson), “Lady Madonna” (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney), and “Until It’s Time For You To Go” (written by Buffy Sainte-Marie). 

The impromptu karate demonstration story has been referenced in several books including Elvis and Nashville by Don Cusic, Elvis Presley: A Life in Music by Ernst Jorgensen, and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. 

Below is Chip Young’s own version of the story, as recorded at his home on May 16, 2014. Sadly, Chip Young passed away later that year.

“Somebody asked Elvis, ‘If somebody pulled a gun on you, how would you get it away from them?’” Chip recalled. “Elvis said, ‘Ah, that’s easy. Red, come here – and bring that gun over here.’”

“Red West was one of the Memphis Mafia. His bodyguard,” explained Chip. “So Red reaches in his pocket and pulled out a gun. And I said, ‘Is that gun loaded?’”

“He said, well I wouldn’t carry around an unloaded gun,” added Chip, chuckling. “So I said, ‘What about unloading it?’”

“So he opens it up and bullets fall down on the floor. And I’m thinking – wow!”

“So he goes over and stands in front of Elvis. And I’m looking at the way that gun is going to go out of Red’s hand. We had a bunch of guitars stacked up against a drum booth over there. It was the first night that James Burton had worked with us, and his guitars were there too.”

“I had my gut-string guitar leaning up,” continued Chip, “and I said ‘Let me move those g–‘ and Elvis hit Red’s hand and that gun went flying across the studio – and boom! – right in the back of my guitar. The barrel went inside and it just stuck. It just hung there.”

“Well of course everyone just broke out laughing like crazy,” chuckled Chip. “I said, ‘Hey guys, this is not funny – this is my guitar you’re laughing at!’”

“So Elvis said, ‘Go buy you another guitar, Chip – I’ll pay you for it!’ I thought about it for a second and I said, ‘Actually, I think this guitar is probably worth a lot more money now than it was before.”

“Later I gave the guitar to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” said a smiling Chip. “With that hole in it.”

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