Just last September Wheel frontman Ray Benson wryly observed from the stage, "We've spent 45 years trying to get out of playing places like this."
Ah-hah, but after seeing the cabaret-style seating, the great food and drink, and the 250 happy fans, Asleep At The Wheel elected to return to the tiki palace on PCH for another show.
Now in their 46th year, the band continues to introduce the western swing genre to a new generation. “It’s been an amazing ride. From Paw Paw to San Francisco to Austin, we’ve seen it all,” says Benson. “But, rest assured, there are still so many exciting projects in the works. The Wheel keeps rolling!”
“There's some relatively unknown group around that I really dig. Asleep at the Wheel plays great country music.” - Van Morrison's Rolling Stone Interview (1973)
The musicianship of Asleep at the Wheel has become the stuff of legends. Reuter’s pegged The Wheel as “one of the best live acts in the business.”
Taking a page from Bob Wills’ book, the band has constantly toured at a national level throughout its history; with anywhere from 7-15 of the finest players Ray Benson could talk into jumping in the bus to play a string of dates.
The alumni roster is well over 80+ members, and includes an impressive list of musicians who have gone on to perform with artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett, Ryan Adams, and many more. A quick scan of awards, such as “Touring Band of the Year” (CMAs, 1976) and “Lifetime Achievement in Performance” (Americana Music Awards 2009), not to mention near dominance of the GRAMMY “Country Instrumental” category over the years, reflects the reputation of the band’s musicianship.
Ray Benson fell in love with western swing because of its unique combination of American blues, swing and traditional fiddling but also for its demanding musical chops.
Western swing is what Benson calls “jazz with a cowboy hat.” It is a thrill to hear live, and thanks in large part to the Wheel’s 40-plus years of promotion, is still a living and creative genre of music today.
“Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular.” - Billboard Magazine (2010)
Over their history, Asleep at The Wheel has garnered 10 Grammy Awards and released more than 25 studio and live albums, and there is no sign of slowing down any time soon. The band’s most recent release, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, garnered the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. The critically acclaimed album, named one of Rolling Stone’s 40 Best Country Albums of 2015, is the latest in Asleep at the Wheel’s long-standing tradition of “keeping Western Swing alive for 45 years” (Wall Street Journal).
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