Tuesday, June 12 President’s Evening Show
Ray Benson founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia 48 years ago. Now based in Austin, the band holds 10 Grammy awards, 20 studio albums and 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. The Grammy Award-winning Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys is the band's most recent release (2015) and marks their third full-length Bob Wills tribute album. Featuring 22 acclaimed collaborations, the all-star lineup includes legends such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Strait and newcomers like The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and many other fine talents.
Asleep at the Wheel is bringing a fresh look, sound and New Album in 2018. With recent additions Katie Shore (fiddle, vocals), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle, mandolin) Connor Forsyth (keyboard, vocals) and Josh Hoag (Bass) Asleep at the Wheel's newest members have given a newfound energy and their own unique style within the band. Asleep at the Wheel veterans David Sanger (Drums) Eddie Rivers (Steel Guitar) and Jay Reynolds (Saxophone and Clarinet) round out the now 8 piece band. Between those Texas Twin Fiddles and Boogie Piano, you can bet you'll be dancin' down the aisles and swingin' all night long when the Wheel rolls into town!
Asleep at the Wheel has seen miles and miles of Texas, and they got their kicks on Route 66. Now in their 48th year, the band continues to introduce the western swing genre to a new generation. "It's been an amazing ride. From Paw Paw to the Bay Area to Austin, we've seen it all," says Wheel front man Ray Benson. "But, rest assured, there are still so many exciting projects in the works. The Wheel keeps rolling!"
"There's some relatively unknown group around that I really dig. Asleep at the Wheel plays great country music."
- Van Morrison's Rolling Stone Interview (1973)
It all started when Ray Benson, Floyd Domino, and Lucky Oceans, along with a Vermont farm boy named Leroy Preston; Virginian Chris O'Connell; and Gene Dobkin, a bass player and fellow classmate of Benson's joined forces. They began with a simple goal: to play and help revive American roots music.
Asleep at the Wheel landed a gig opening for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna in Washington, DC in 1970. At the height of Vietnam, many Americans were using their choice of music to express their stance on the conflict in southeast Asia. "We wanted to break that mold," said Benson. "We were concerned more with this amazing roots music, which we felt was being lost amid the politics. We were too country for the rock folks and we were too long-haired for the country folks. But everybody got over it once the music started playing."
A year later, they were coaxed into moving to California by Commander Cody, leader of Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. But, the band's big break came when Van Morrison mentioned them in an interview with Rolling Stone. The record offers started coming in and the Wheel got rolling.
80+ Members But Who's Counting?
"We're a dance band. That's what we're about. And that's plenty."
- Ray Benson
The musicianship of Asleep at the Wheel has become the stuff of legends. Reuter's pegged the Wheel as "one of the best live acts in the business." Taking a page from Bob Wills' book, the band has constantly toured at a national level throughout its history; with anywhere from 7-15 of the finest players Ray Benson could talk into jumping in the bus to play a string of dates. The alumni roster is well over 80+ members, and includes an impressive list of musicians who have gone on to perform with artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett, Ryan Adams, and many more. A quick scan of awards, such as "Touring Band of the Year" (CMAs, 1976) and "Lifetime Achievement in Performance" (Americana Music Awards 2009), not to mention near dominance of the GRAMMY "Country Instrumental" category over the years, reflects the reputation of the band's musicianship. Ray Benson fell in love with western swing because of its unique combination of elements of American blues, swing and traditional fiddling but also for its demanding musical chops. Western swing is what Benson calls "jazz with a cowboy hat," is a thrill to hear live, and thanks in large part to the Wheel's 40-plus years of promotion, is a living and creative genre of music today.
On the Records & the Road
"Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular."
- Billboard Magazine (2010)
Over their history, Asleep at The Wheel has earned ten GRAMMY Awards and released more than 25 studio and live albums, and there is no sign of slowing down any time soon. The band's most recent release, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, garnered the 2016 GRAMMY Award for Best Recording Package. The critically acclaimed album, named one of Rolling Stone's 40 Best Country Albums of 2015, is the latest in Asleep at the Wheel's long-standing tradition of "keeping Western Swing alive for 45 years" (Wall Street Journal). Featuring 22 acclaimed collaborations, the all-star line up includes legends such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Strait and newcomers like The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and many other fine talents.
From the Stage to the Dance Floor
"The Wheel plays music that is timeless, infectious, and is meant for dancing."
- Dallas Observer (2014)
Throughout their four decades, the Wheel has driven the genre to the edge, explored new territories, picked up new passengers along the way and crisscrossed the country to the delight of fans and critics alike. Asleep at the Wheel has brought a fresh look, sound and new album into 2018. Now traveling as an 8-piece band, recent additions Katie Shore (fiddle, vocals), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle, mandolin) Connor Forsyth (keyboard, vocals) and Josh Hoag (Bass) have instilled a newfound energy and their own unique style within the band. Between those Texas Twin Fiddles and Boogie Piano, you can bet you'll be dancin' down the aisles and swingin' all night long when the Wheel rolls into town!
Asleep at the Wheel Timeline
Bandleader Ray Benson born in Philadelphia, PA. (March 16)
Band forms in Paw Paw, WV. Play first "big show" opening for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna.
Band moves to California at the invitation of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Van Morrison helps the band to get first record deal by mentioning them in an interview in Rolling Stone Magazine - "there's some relatively unknown group around that I really dig. Asleep at the Wheel plays great country music. They're really good musicians."
Debut album Comin' Right At Ya released by United Artists (includes single "Take Me Back to Tulsa").
At invitation of Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm, band moves to Austin, Texas.
"Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" from their second album Asleep at the Wheel is their first chart single.
The release of Texas Gold on Capitol Records elevates the band to one of the most popular country acts of the decade, with "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read" becoming a top-ten country hit.
Band stars on the premier episode of "Austin City Limits" television show (and has performed 11 times since then).
Voted Best Country & Western Band by Rolling Stone.
The Wheel awarded "Touring Band of the Year" by Academy of Country Music.
Band tours Europe with Emmylou Harris.
Their sixth nomination turns out to be their first GRAMMY™ win for the country instrumental "One O'Clock Jump." The Wheel will go on to earn nine more GRAMMYS™ to date.
Band appears in the film Roadie with Meatloaf, Blondie and Art Carney.
Their first live album Served Live is recorded at the Austin Opera House.
The album 10 scores big with the GRAMMY™-winning single "String of Pars."
Against the advice of most music insiders, Ray establishes Bismeaux Studio and Bismeaux Records where he'll go on to produce projects for Willie Nelson, Pam Tillis, Carolyn Wonderland, Aaron Watson, James Hand, Suzy Bogguss, Don Walser, Dale Watson and many others.
Ray directs the music and co-stars in the film Wild Texas Wind with Dolly Parton and Gary Busey.
Band featured on Route 66 Tour (66th Anniversary of Route 66).
Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills for Liberty Records, including guest artists Garth Brooks, George Strait and Vince Gill amongst many others, is an instant hit, earning two GRAMMYS™ and a live performance on the Country Music Awards telecast with Lyle Lovett.
Old Silver Eagle tour bus retired with over 3 million miles.
Ride With Bob CD is released by Dreamworks and includes guest performances by the Dixie Chicks, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Manhattan Transfer and others. The ensuing long form documentary The Making of Ride with Bob earns a regional Emmy Award. The album wins two GRAMMY™ Awards.
Stadium tours with Bob Dylan & George Strait begin (2000-2001).
Ray hosts the CMT special Stars Over Texas in Austin, going toe-to- toe with Dolly Parton and Vince Gill.
Ray releases his first solo record Beyond Time while at the same time managing to make two records with the band (Live at Billy Bob's Texas and Asleep at the Wheel Remembers the Alamo).
Ray is named the official 2004 Texas State Musician.
Asleep at the Wheel launches its Pops program in performances with Austin and Dallas Symphonies.
"A Ride with Bob: The Bob Wills Musical," co-written by Ray Benson and starring Ray and members of Asleep at the Wheel, debuts in Austin to coincide with Wills' 100th birthday. Through the year, further performances in 4 cities sell out and garner critical acclaim.
Band chosen for opening performance at inaugural Austin City Limits Festival and carry on the tradition annually.
"A Ride with Bob" sells out the Kennedy Center, with President and Mrs. George W. Bush in attendance.
Band releases Reinventing the Wheel, their first feature CD in several years.
Band hits the road for "Last of the Breed" Tour, featuring Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard & Ray Price. Performance filmed for broadcast on PBS.
Ray serves as a judge on the ABC's "Six Degrees of Martina McBride."
Ray Benson awarded the TEC - Les Paul Award honoring individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology.
Ray joins Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts for a musical tribute to Bob Wills on the 50th Annual GRAMMY™ Awards telecast on CBS.
Then Presidential candidate Barrack Obama joins Ray Benson on stage for a performance of "Boogie Back to Texas" at an Austin Fundraiser.
Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel release Willie & The Wheel and earn a GRAMMY™ nomination for Best Americana Album - the first time this category has ever appeared.
Americana Music Association honors Asleep at the Wheel with Lifetime Achievement Award.
Band releases It's a Good Day with original Texas Playboy Leon Rausch.
Ray Benson receives the Texas Medal of the Arts.
Ray Benson named Texan of the Year.
Band makes their 11th appearance on "Austin City Limits."
Band releases Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, featuring 22 acclaimed collaborations.
Band is inducted into the "Austin City Limits" Hall of Fame, alongside Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez and Townes Van Zandt.
Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys wins the GRAMMY™ for Best Recording Package at the 58th annual awards ceremony.