Artist Profiles: Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel

Based in Austin, Texas, and propelled by fiddles, steel guitar, and the warm, smooth vocals of Ray Benson, Asleep at the Wheel is the United States’ longest-lived western swing band, the reigning kings of this jazz-infused, danceable style. They’ve honored western swing founder Bob Wills by performing his music even longer than he did.

Asleep at the Wheel is much more than a dance band. They’re an institution: an ever-shifting lineup (80 members to date) of like-minded musicians united under Ray Benson’s drive to carry the torch of big band Western Swing music far into the 21st Century. It is a mission that has won the band and Ray nine Grammy awards to date.

Benson’s love of music began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – far, far away from the city of Austin, Texas, which the Wheel has proudly called home for the last twenty-eight years. “I was born in 1951, and big band music was still very much around and in my community, it was still very much the thing,” Benson explains. “I played bass in my school stage band in tenth grade, and my musical director introduced us to Count Basie. And I knew jazz, because Philadelphia is a great jazz city. I was also into folk music, Chicago blues and country. My goal was to be more different than anybody, and that’s what Asleep at the Wheel was all about: doing roots music that was different and eclectic.”

Discography

* Comin’ Right at Ya (EMI, 1973)
* Asleep at the Wheel (Epic, 1974)
* Fathers & Sons (Epic, 1975)
* Texas Gold (Capitol, 1975)
* Wheelin’ & Dealin’ (Capitol, 1976)
* The Wheel (Capitol, 1977)
* Collision Course (Capitol, 1978)
* Served Live (Capitol, 1979)
* Framed (MCA, 1980)
* Asleep at the Wheel (MCA, 1985)
* 10 (Epic, 1987)
* Western Standard Time (Epic, 1988)
* Keepin’ Me Up Nights (Arista, 1990)
* Route 66 (Liberty, 1992)
* | A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys (Liberty, 1993)
* The Wheel Keeps on Rollin’ (Capitol, 1995)
* Back to the Future Now – Live at Arizona… (Sony, 1997)
* Merry Texas Christmas, Y’All (High Street, 1997)
* Ride with Bob (DreamWorks, 1999)
* Take Me Back to Tulsa (Evangeline, 2003)
* Wide Awake!: Live in Oklahoma (Delta, 2003)
* Live at Billy Bob’s Texas (Smith Music Group, 2003)
* Remembers the Alamo (Shout! Factory, 2003)
* Live from Austin, TX (New West, 2006)
* Reinventing the Wheel (Mega Force, 2007)
* Kings of Texas Swing (Cleopatra, 2007)
* Santa Loves to Boogie (MRI, 2007)
* Asleep at the Wheel with The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
* Willie and the Wheel, with Willie Nelson (Bismeaux, 2009)
* It’s a Good Day (Bismeaux, 2010)
* Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Bismeaux, 2015)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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