It was like Elvis came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear.
I’ve been fascinated with Elvis since the day he died – one of my earliest memories – and the real man behind the kitsch and countless impersonators. For me, and many, Elvis represents a man who had the courage and the conviction to follow his dreams. He inspired a generation and changed the face of music, and yet even when Elvis was alive he felt that many didn’t take him or his music seriously.
In April 2016 I set out on a road trip. I followed in the footsteps of Elvis’ ancestor Andrew Presley who emigrated from Scotland to North Carolina in 1745. Like many he travelled towards a dream of a better life and land. The journey from emigrant to super star in a handful of generations is the embodiment of the American Dream, a dream of growth, individual pioneers and the never ending journey west. A dream perfect for its time, but one that even Adam Smith said could not last.
I take Elvis and dreams seriously. So I travelled from Wilmington in North Carolina where Andrew Presley landed in 1745 to Las Vegas, where Elvis played out the last years of his life. Along the way I travelled through the Carolinas, over the Great Smoky Mountains, explored Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee before heading west over the Mississippi to join the former Route 66 at Oklahoma and across the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona and the vastness of the central US, before heading into the deserts of Nevada.
Along the way I got to know Elvis, his life and achievements, I experienced first hand what it means to be a European travelling west – a direction at odds with your cultural history – and began to ask questions about a new collective dream, as well as start the journey of reconnecting with my own.