Ray Benson, leader of the long-running western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, discusses his fifty-plus year career with the Museum’s Michael McCall and offers a rare solo performance of songs he has written.
During the 2018 program, held during AmericanaFest, Benson discusses how a Philadelphia native grew into a central figure on the Austin music scene and became heralded as an ambassador for western swing music. The nine-time Grammy winner speaks of his close relationship with fellow Austin resident Willie Nelson and how Bob Wills helped create western swing by combining traditional fiddle music with rhythmic arrangements inspired by jazz, blues, and Mexican songs.
Benson brings up his many influences, from Irving Berlin to Jimmie Rodgers to Count Basie, while performing his original songs “A Little Piece,” “Hot Like That,” “The Letter Johnny Walker Read,” “Dance with Who Brung Ya,” and a cover of Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues.”
He reminisces about the Austin music scene of the 1970s—the subject of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s”—and about how his eleven-piece band would play a Texas dancehall one evening and on the next night open for the rock band Alice Cooper. He also speaks colorfully of encounters with a wide range of American legends, including University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Connie Smith, and others.
Presented in support of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition "Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ʼ70s" (May 25, 2018, through February 7, 2022).
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