Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

ASLEEP at the WHEEL

US western swing band formed West Coast late '60s. Ray Benson (b 16 March '51), guitar, vocals; Lucky Oceans (b Reuben Gosfield, 22 April '51), pedal steel (both b Philadelphia). Moved to Paw Paw WV; added girl singer Chris O'Connell (b 21 March c'53, Williamsport MD); to San Francisco; pianist Floyd Domino joined. Debut album Comin' Right At Ya for United Artists '73; moved to Austin; Asleep At The Wheel was on Epic '74; signed with Capitol, had hit single 'The Letter That Johnnie Walker Wrote', string of critically acclaimed albums: Jumpin' At The Woodside '74; Texas Gold '75 was top ten country album, also made pop chart; Wheelin' And Dealin' '76; The Wheel '77; Collision Course '78. Voted top touring band by ACM '77; Grammy '78 for best country instrumental ('One O'Clock Jump'). Among those who've played with the band or passed through: Pat 'Taco' Ryan (reeds; b East Texas 14 July '53); Danny Levin (fiddle, mandolin, piano; b Philadelphia, '49); Link Davies (reeds, accordion; from Port Arthur TX); LeRoy Preston (rhythm guitar); Fran Christina (drums); Dean Demerritt (bass); Johnny Gimble (fiddle); others. Band shrank from eleven to eight early '80s. The revival of western swing also revived interest in music of Bob Wills; as usual in the genre, the music contains jazz, humour and originality. Jumpin' At The Woodside '74 was one of their best, with Gimble on most tracks; Pasture Prime released '85, on Demon in UK, had duet with Benson and Willie Nelson on 'Write Your Own Song'. Western Standard Time '88 had old songs from three decades in the best western swing tradition. Scored country hits '87--93 on Epic, Arista (album Keepin' Me Up Nights) and Liberty; made superstar sessions with Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, George Strait etc for a Bob Wills tribute album on Liberty '93: Still Swingin' was a three-CD set.