Q&A with Linda Thompson, once Elvis Presley’s girlfriend

Linda Thompson
Linda Thompson Texas Elvis Festival

Linda Thompson could be known for a lot of things.

She was Miss Tennessee in 1972. She was an actress with a recurring role on Hee Haw. And before he was known as Caitlyn Jenner, Bruce Jenner was married to Thompson.

But for Elvis Presley fans, Thompson will always be remembered as his girlfriend from 1972 to 1976. It’s a memory that Thompson is comfortable with and willing to talk about. That’s what she plans to do Saturday when she speaks at the Texas Tribute to Elvis at Southfork Ranch.

Leading up to the event, Thompson, 65, talked about Elvis and what he meant and still means.

How often do you do Elvis-related stuff?

Not often at all. I didn’t do anything Elvis-related for many years other than Larry King’s anniversary show on the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ passing (2002).

I’ve been very selective, but my brother (Sam Thompson) knows the man who’s doing this festival and Sam speaks very highly of him and he told me I should get out there and do more things.

Are you eager to see what the reception is going to be like?

I’m eager to meet the fans that I haven’t met before and speak with them. Elvis had such incredible fans. They were such down-to-earth and good people. I’m excited about that.

It’s always entertaining to see some of the impersonators. I’m fortunate because when you live your life with good intentions and the right intentions you’re perceived in the light you should be. The fans have been really good to me and very embracing.

What is the thing you’re most looking forward to?

Just getting to interact with some of the fans. We have such a common thread that runs through us. We all loved Elvis. For the people who still keep his memory alive I think it’s remarkable that all these years later there’s still such a devoted fan base.

I wrote a song for Josh Groban, To Where You Are, inspired by my mother’s passing, Elvis’ passing. One of the lines is ‘I believe that angels breathe and love lives on and never leaves.’

I think that’s true. When you love someone that love never leaves your heart.

What do you think of so many tribute artists?

I’m pleasantly surprised. I think that Elvis used to always tell himself that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think that’s true in most situations.

I think you have to look at that and think that’s good for them. They found someone they wanted to emulate.

I think it’s entertaining and pretty remarkable that there are so many around the world. It’s astonishing, really.

What do you think Elvis would think of that?

There were people when he was living who were doing shows in Las Vegas and touring around the country. We’d see people in the audience who would have the long sideburns or the slicked-back hair or high collars and tried to have some of the nuances Elvis exhibited.

It was funny because Elvis would look at them and go, ‘There’s another me.’ He thought it was sweet and he was flattered by it. He thought it was nice people admired him enough they wanted to look like him.

Why do you think Elvis has such staying power?

He was an original. There are very few originals in our lives.

Most people are derivative in their music. Their fashion is derivative of someone. Elvis was an absolute original. The way he moved. The way he sang. The way he spoke. The way he conducted himself.

Everything about him was original, particularly his music. His was an amalgamation of gospel, of country, of blues. He took a lot of different styles of music and melded it and what he came up with was an original form of music.

That’s why my son Brody (Jenner) looked at some old photos and said ‘Mom, Elvis was the original pimp daddy, wasn’t he?’ I guess he kind of was with the bejeweled suit, the entourage and what he wore.