How Elvis' family, fellow artists and fans remember The King

Presley's lover and confident Linda Thompson, country star Jason Aldean, and others look back at Elvis' legacy 40 years after his death.
6:37 | 08/17/17

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Transcript for How Elvis' family, fellow artists and fans remember The King
If you listen to Elvis's music these days, it's a little bit hard to believe he was once considered so rebellious. But some of today's edgiest musicians will tell you that they have been deeply influenced by the king, and now 40 years after his death we travel to Memphis. Here's ABC's Chris Connelly. Reporter: 40 years ago Linda Thompson got a phone call at her home. On the other end of the line was a 9-year-old girl. It was Lisa Marie Presley. She said, "My daddy's dead. My daddy's dead." She just blurted it out. Reporter: Thompson had spent 4 1/2 years as Elvis Presley's lover and confidant before they parted in 1976. One year later she struggled to believe what she was hearing. The king of rock and roll, dead at 42. Presley was found unconscious in his mansion at about 2:30, was pronounced dead an hour later. I first quizzed her, are you sure that he didn't just go to the hospital? And she said no, no, he's dead. Reporter: Four decades have passed. How long? This year Elvis's granddaughter, Riley Keogh, was nominated for a golden globe, an award Elvis never won. And the love his millions of fans have for the king of rock and roll and the electrifying music he gave to the world never did die. ??? Well, that's all right mama ??? Reporter: It all started on July 5th, 1954 at sun studios in Memphis, where the truck driver who'd yet to sing with a band did the song "That's all right." ??? That's all right now mama ??? You had this kid coming in, this 19-year-old kid coming into the studio. He had never performed in public before. It's a music that's so spontaneous, so free. ??? Well, it's down at the end of lonely street at heartbreak hotel ??? Reporter: Two years later he was crushing it live and on TV with "Heartbreak hotel." He had a look that nobody had back then. The Italian type of waistcoat. And you know, the stitching. Very cool stuff. Reporter: Yet the generation has aged that knew Elvis as a rebel, the hip-thrusting thunderbolt of charisma and sexuality who shocked a buttoned-down nation with his performance of "Hound dog" on the Milton berle show. ??? Hound dog ??? with such contemporary country artists as land antebellum of "Need you now" fame. ??? And I need you now ??? Elvis's once dangerous music was passed down to them by parents and grandparents. My first memory of hearing Elvis Presley was my paw-paw, my dad's dad. He would work real hard all through the week and on the weekends Elvis was a go-to just music that was place at our house. Jailhouse rock, blue suede shoes. Playing on git where my dad were some of my first introductions to Elvis. He passed away when I was six months old, but I've always been a fan of his music but kind of a student too. ??? With suspicious minds ??? Playing drums for Elvis made you feel like you were backing a stripper. You had to catch everything he did. I even studied karate later on to where I could anticipate his moves. He was so nervous about performing, he wasn't sure the fans would like him. He asked me one time, why are they here? I said to hear you. He said, "I can't understand why." ??? Here we go again ??? Reporter: Those who sang backup on such songs as "Suspicious minds," on tour in Las Vegas, or here in Nashville's historic studio B would never forget their years with Elvis. Most artists sing with the Mike on a stand. Elvis wouldn't do that. So he would grab that Mike with his hand as if he were on the stage. Reporter: The 1992 comedy "Honeymoon in Vegas" would feature this performance from a 4-year-old Elvis impersonator. ??? Take my whole life too ??? yes, that's a young Bruno Mars. Whose thoughts back then appeared in the documentary "Viva Elvis." Iike singing. And his dancing. Reporter: Ten years ago it was Lisa Marie, duetting with her late father on his social justice hit "In the ghetto." Its proceeds going to charity. ??? It's another hungry mouth to feed in the ghetto ??? I had thought about many other songs, but that was just the one that just did have a really in-depth thing that I flt I could do something with. Reporter: In 1972 Linda Thompson was a beauty pageant goddess 12 credits short of graduating from Memphis state when she met 37-year-old Elvis at the movies. You can't even remember the movie. No, WOUB able to if Elvis Presley was sitting next to you, Maci I making on you? I was very standoffish until he whispered in my ear, honey, you know I'm not married anymore, we're separated, we have been separated for seven months. I went, oh, well, let me lean in a little closer here, aw little more here. Reporter: As she chronicled in her memoir "A little thing called love," Linda was moved into Elvis's graceland residence just weeks later. He confided a flaw that he had to you. He said, I'll probably only admit this once, but I have a self-destructive streak. It was evident in a lot of things, particularly in the way that he abused his body with prescription medication. Reporter: One humorous out-of-control moment would enter Elvis lore forever. Watching TV at graceland. Robert Goulet happened to be on TV singing -- ??? if ever I would leave you ??? and he says, honey, step out of the room. And he starts to reach for his gun. He says, "Just can't stand to watch this any longer." So I closed the door behind me, and I heard boom, boom, boom. I walk back into the bedroom, and the television is just shot to hell. Reporter: That TV, with its bullet hole, is among the memorabilia now on display at Elvis Presley's Memphis, a new complex of elvis-themed museums, restaurants, and shopped across from graceland. A $137 million bet that Elvis fans will continue to make the trip to reexperience his legend. His backup singers paying tribute, performing "Sweet sweet spirit" 40 years after they sang it at his funeral. ??? Of the lord ??? He was one of the greatest singers and entertainers of all time. I'd never seen anything like it. You know, back then we didn't have the smoke and the fire and the explosions on stage. It was him and the music. Reporter: For "Nightline" I'm Chris Connelly in Los Angeles.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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