One of musics most venerable and revered groups, Asleep at the Wheel, returns to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College on Wednesday night. Now in its 40th year, The Wheel is on the road promoting its latest release, Its a Good Day.
It all began in 1970 when front man Ray Benson put together a country band in Paw Paw, W.Va. The bands name has a dual meaning, referencing either the act of falling asleep while driving or someone who is blissfully unaware of a dangerous situation.
Influenced in part by the likes of Merle Haggard and Commander Cody, the tone of the music shifted to Western Swing and Asleep at the Wheel became the nations primary torch bearer to keep alive the Western/Texas Swing sound made popular by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the 1930s and 40s. The sound is a mix of big band, country and swing music paced by early hits like Choo Choo ChBoogie, The Letter That Johnny Walker Read, and One OClock Jump that remains timeless as the band changes members almost annually. In fact, the band is nearing its 100th member since its inception. Typical lineups include eight to 11 members.
Its A Good Day features 82-year-old Leon Rausch, who performed with Wills and the Playboys, although Rausch is not on the road with the band for the current tour.
The latest lineup is Benson (lead guitar, vocals), Jason Roberts (fiddle, guitar, mandolin and vocals), David Sanger (drums), David Earl Miller (base, vocals), Dan Walton (piano), Elizabeth McQueen (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Eddie Rivers (steel guitar, sax).
Asleep at the Wheels laurels are many, garnering nine Grammy awards, being named Best Country and Western Band by Rolling Stone magazine and winning the title of Touring Band of the Year from the Academy of Country Music.