The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson Made the Mistake of Trying to Karate Chop Elvis

Elvis Presley trained in Karate for years, something The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson knew when he met the singer. Wilson was nervous about meeting the celebrated artist, but he wanted to invite him to a recording session. Just before Elvis walked over to the studio with him, Wilson moved to hit his arm. The other musician retaliated swiftly.  

A black and white photo Elvis Presley smiling in the middle of a Karate workout in 1973.
Elvis Presley | Dozier Mobley/Getty Images

Elvis was introduced to Karate in 1958

The United States Army drafted Elvis in 1958, and he first learned about Karate while stationed in Germany. He began training and, per Graceland, earned his first-degree black belt in 1960. In 1974, Elvis opened the Tennessee Karate Institute in Memphis. He was so passionate about it that Graceland opened a pop-up Karate exhibit in 2021.

According to the site, “The exhibit documents Elvis’ love for Karate and features artifacts from the Graceland archives including his personal Karate Gi’s, Testatkarte Karate card and Honorary Membership Certificate, which shows Karate classes that he took while he was in the army in Germany at the Kang Rhee Institute Pasawon Headquarters.”

Brian Wilson attempted to karate chop Elvis when they first met

In the early 1970s, Wilson was working at RCA Studios in Hollywood when he heard the news that Elvis was currently recording there. Guitarist James Burton was on his way to record with Elvis, and Wilson begged him to bring to meet the artist.

“He said, ‘Oh! Please, please take me to meet Elvis,'” Burton said, per Express. “I took him in, and he walked up to Elvis and was just looking at him. And Elvis stuck his hand out to shake hands, and [Wilson] couldn’t move.”

Wilson was starstruck, and Elvis was a bit irritated that his security had let a stranger into the room.

“Elvis was very upset with us thinking, ‘How did this guy get in here and who is he?'” Elvis’ friend Jerry Schilling explained. “So Brian said, ‘I’m recording next door. Would you come over and listen?’ And Elvis looked at us; it’s almost in spite of us since this guy had gotten through. He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go over.'”

As they went to leave, Wilson moved to karate chop Elvis’ arm. He explained that Elvis reacted quickly and hit his arm away.

“I knew he knew Karate, and he karate chopped my arm so hard. And he goes, ‘I’m leaving, I’m leaving,’ and he split,” Wilson explained on a 2012 episode of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. “And that was it.”

Unfortunately, Wilson’s attempt at a playful moment meant that Elvis didn’t go listen to what he’d been working on.

The Beach Boys mentioned Elvis in a song

While Wilson irritated Elvis, The Beach Boys admired the artist. They even mentioned him in the 1964 song “Do You Remember?” In it, they bring up a variety of influential musicians, including Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

“Elvis Presley is the king/He’s the giant of the day/Paved the way for a rock ‘n’ roll star,” read Wilson’s lyrics.

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