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Asleep At The Wheel Biography

Asleep At The Wheel Biography

In 1969, Ray Benson co-founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia, and soon after they found themselves opening for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna in Washington, DC. A year later, they moved to East Oakland, California at the invitation of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. After being mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine by Van Morrison, they landed a record deal with United Artists. In 1973, their debut album, Comin' Right At Ya was released by United Artists. At the request of Willie Nelson, they left Oakland and moved to Austin in 1974 as well. In 1974, they released their second album, Asleep at the Wheel with a cover of Louis Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", which was their first single to hit the country charts. The following year saw the release of Texas Gold as the group's third album with the top-ten Country hit single The Letter that Johnny Walker Read. In addition, they played on PBS's Austin City Limits, where they have since performed a record-setting ten times. In 1977, the band was voted Best Country Western Band by Rolling Stone Magazine and was awarded the Touring Band of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. They also went on tour with Emmylou Harris in Europe. The following year, they made a cover of Count Basie's song One O'Clock Jump. Also in 1978, they appeared in the movie Roadie, along with Meatloaf, Blondie and Art Carney. By the end of the decade, the band recorded their first live album Served Live at the Austin Opera House.

The 1980s became a turbulent decade for the band. After moving to MCA, co-founder Lucky Oceans left the band, and Chris O'Connell left in September 1986 due to her pregnancy. Asleep at the Wheel gathered a large amount of debt that required them to work on commercials and movie soundtracks. In 1985 the band released a virtually ignored self-titled album[1]. By the late 1980s, Ray Benson had done some producing, allowing the band a second chance with Epic Records. In 1987, the band released 10, which won them their second Grammy for Best Country Instrumental helping to launch their comeback. The album also had contributions from legendary fiddle player and onetime Texas Playboys member Johnny Gimble. The following year, the band released Western Standard Time, which won them another Grammy for Best Country Instrumental. The late 1980s also saw the growth of Jann Browne as a solo vocalist in the group; she would later embark on a solo career on Curb Records. The band moved to Arista Records and released the album, Keepin' Me Up Nights. Soon after, the band saw turnover as old members left and new members entered. In 1991, Ray Benson directed the music and co-starred in the movie Wild Texas Wind with Dolly Parton. In honor of the 66th anniversary of Route 66, the band launched the Route 66 Tour. In 1993, the band released the instant hit A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys to much critical acclaim with several guest musicians. Two years later, the band celebrated their 25th anniversary by releasing The Wheel Keeps on Rollin'. In 1999, the band and Dreamworks released Ride with Bob, as their second tribute album to Bob Wills. This album became an instant hit and garnered the band two Grammy wins, one for Best Country Instrumental, and the other for Best Package Design.

According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Ray Benson "didn't just enlist the obvious Wills fans" in this tribute album to Bob Wills like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. He also brought in some of country's young lions the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Lee Ann Womack, some pop stars", including Shawn Colvin, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and fellow country preservationists such as Dwight Yoakam. In 2000, the Dixie Chicks were nominated for an Award for Vocal Event of the Year for "Roly Poly" with Asleep At The Wheel from the Country Music Association. That same year, the band toured with Bob Dylan and George Strait. On September 11, 2001, the band was scheduled to play at the White House, but the performance was postponed. In 2003, the band released Live at Billy Bob's Texas, and by the latter part of the decade, in 2007, the band released 3 albums. The first was Reinventing the Wheel an entirely new set of songs, including a collaboration with The Blind Boys of Alabama. The band also released a two disc set Kings of Texas Swing. Also in 2007, their second Christmas album was released, Santa Loves to Boogie. Asleep at the Wheel received 6 Austin Music Awards for their efforts in 2007 including Band of the Year, Songwriter of the Year (Benson), Country Band of the Year, Record Producer of the Year (Benson), Male Vocals of the Year (Benson) and Acoustic Guitar Player of the Year (McQueen).

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