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Asleep at the Wheel

For over fifty years, Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson has been traversing the globe as an ambassador of Western swing music and introducing its irresistible sound to generation after generation. More than 100 musicians have passed through the Wheel, but Benson remains the front man and the keeper of the vision, in the process racking up more than 30 albums, ten Grammy awards and literally millions of miles on the road.

“I’m the reason it’s still together, but the reason it’s popular is because we’ve had the greatest singers and players,” Benson explains. “When someone joins the band, I say, ‘Learn everything that’s ever been done, then put your own stamp on it.’ I love to hear how they interpret what we do. I’m just a singer and a songwriter, and a pretty good guitar player, but my best talent is convincing people to jump on board and play this music.”

Asleep at the Wheel has collaborated on records with genre-spanning friends, including Willie Nelson on 2009’s Grammy Nominated Willie and the Wheel and other critically acclaimed artists, including Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, the Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and Lyle Lovett on Still the King, their 2015 critically acclaimed and Grammy winning tribute to Bob Wills. On their latest release, Half A Hundred Years, Asleep At The Wheel continued their contributions to the American music landscape when three original members of Asleep at the Wheel—Chris O’Connell, Leroy Preston, and Lucky Oceans—returned after 40 years to lend their voices and musicianship to a number of tracks on the album along with Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson.

Asleep at the Wheel represents an important cornerstone of American roots music, even though some of its members and audiences represent a new generation. That far-reaching appeal remains a testament to Benson’s initial vision.

“It took me 60 years, but I’m doing what I’m meant to do—singing and playing and writing better than I ever have. A bandleader is just someone who gathers people around them to play the best music they can play. I just try and make the best decisions possible and kick some ass every night onstage.”

 

   Still “Comin’ Right At Ya!” – Celebrating 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel

The number of individual artists and bands who have sustained a thriving career for a half century is  infinitesimally small.  Against all odds, Asleep At the Wheel is one of these. The stars aligned in 1970 when three friends Ray Benson, Lucky Oceans and Leroy Preston moved to Paw Paw, West Virginia (it’s not a made-up place, you can look it up).  It was there that their dream of forming a band began after a mutual friend gave them access to his uncle’s cabin on an apple orchard just outside of town.  The three friends began to – quite literally — woodshed and found others who would join them in their mission to play old style Roots/Americana music. This was long before the genre/movement even had a name.  After a trip to the outhouse, Lucky lived up to his name and suggested the band be called Asleep at the Wheel and so it was to be for the next 50 years.

Since inception, Asleep at the Wheel has been received 10 GRAMMY® Awards, was cited by the Country Music Association as 1976 Touring Band of the Year and were given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Americana Music Association in 2009. They have released 31 albums, charted more than 20 singles on the  country charts. Billboard commented on the band’s catalog most succinctly: “Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular.

Most recently, Asleep at the Wheel has been invigorated by a fresh new lineup and the release of New Routes, their latest album that is a bracing blend of original songs and vibrant cover material along with some unanticipated new musical tangents.  Asleep At the Wheel have demonstrated convincingly, that they are more relevant, enjoyable and musically nimble than at any time in its 50-year history. The 6’7” Ray Benson has been the one constant in Asleep At the Wheel since 1970.  He notes, “I’ve been told that I’m relentless, so I guess I am….  I’m just doing what I believe I’m meant to do — I’m singing and playing and writing better than I ever have. My role and concept of leading a band has never changed, It’s gathering the best musicians I can find or convince to play to the best of their ability, and I just try and make the best decisions possible and kick some ass every night onstage. I’ve made it this far and don’t feel like I or the band will be slowing down anytime soon.”

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!