Western-Swing Band Asleep at the Wheel

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on May 24, 2003

I'd like to know more about the country music group Asleep at the Wheel. Where are they from and what are some of their albums?
—Carl S., Nevada

There's an awful lot to tell about this Texas-based band that's been making music since 1970. Headed up by 6-foot, 7-inch Ray Benson, a native of Philadelphia, Asleep At The Wheel has seen more than 80 different bandmembers come and go over the years. Benson, born in 1951, grew up hearing Big Band music as well as jazz, folk, and country. In 1969, at age 18, he hooked up with Lucky Oceans and Leroy Preston in Paw Paw, W. Va., with the idea of forming a real Western swing band. In 1970, the band played its first big show, with Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna. Van Morrison became a fan, and when he mentioned them in an interview in Rolling Stone, it led to AATW getting a record deal. The group eventually landed in Austin, Texas, where it's still based, and they've released 22 albums, including A Tribute to Bob Wills and its follow-up, Ride With Bob, as well as Swing Time and The Wheel Keeps Rolling. The band has won nine Grammy awards. It still tours, and more than 20 years has put more than 3 million miles on its old bus. Benson will be releasing his first solo album this year, and has been doing some work as a producer for other artists, including Pam Tillis, Trace Adkins, and Suzy Bogguss.