Seven weeks before his death, Elvis arrived at Dane County Airport and rode into Madison, where he would perform.
What happened shortly after his plane landed is part of Elvis’ most bizarre lore — which is considerable for a megastar with a pet chimpanzee who was dressed in suits and ties.
The story involves three teenagers at an east-side Madison gas station and occurred at 1 a.m. before Elvis’ concert the next night at the Dane County Coliseum in June 1977.
At center of the story is Keith Lowry, a then-17-year-old attendant at his father’s gas station, Skylane Standard, on North Stoughton Road.
I talked to Lowry, who now lives in tiny Claud, Texas, near Amarillo. He’s 34, has a family and owns a gas station.
I asked him to tell the story again.
“I was out reading the pumps. There were two other boys there who were former employees and had been fired,” Lowry said. “I was trying to keep them off the premises.”
A scuffle – two-on-one – followed and punches were thrown.
Then Elvis arrived.
(Pause to let that sink in.)
His plane landed at the nearby Dane County airport, coming from Des Moines where Elvis had performed that night.
From his limousine, Elvis saw the fight. He had the driver stop the car.
Although Elvis had two bodyguards with him, the bloated star approached the fight alone and did a karate kick into the air.
“He said to the other two, `I’ll take you two on,’ ” Lowry said.
The two boys scurried away.
“He asked if I was all right. I was so stunned that he was there that all I could say was `yeah.’ ” Three or four other cars, filled with fans who had followed Elvis from the airport, also stopped.
“There was a lady there taking pictures and she called me one time and said she’d send them to me,” said Lowry, who was a junior at La Follette High School at the time. “But I never got any.”
Elvis signed autographs for his fans who gathered there, then went on his way. I had heard this story originally from someone who had heard it from a local security guard who was at the scene. Lowry’s version matches exactly.
Do others believe him when he tells it now?
“No, they don’t,” Lowry said. “But I have a scrapbook at the gas station with articles about it.”
And Elvis’ legacy lives on.
“In fact,” Lowry said, “you’re the second guy who’s called me about it this week. There was a guy from Indiana who collects newspaper clippings about Elvis and he wanted to talk to me.”