Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson stops short of giving away special guest for Friday show


(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Asleep at the Wheel‘s Ray Benson is celebrating 50 years of performances and music brought to Austin and around the world with one question.

“What’s the next thing?” the front man and founder asks. “I always look forward even though we’re cognizant of the past.”

Benson joined the Austin music scene with Asleep at the Wheel in 1973. “For an 18-year-old kid to have an idea and get it to fruition, really way beyond the success that I ever imagined, is very satisfying,” he said.

Asleep at the Wheel’s newly released album, “Half A Hundred Years,” stays true to their western swing identity and is quite the sum with voices from the band’s past, including three original members — Chris O’Connell, Leroy Preston and Lucky Oceans.

“This was a small town when I moved here almost 50 years ago,” said Benson. “The one thing that has always remained constant is within this large city that grew up out of this little town, there are still pockets of old Austin that are around.”

The nostalgia and reflection becomes personified in their title song. “I think it describes…the ups and downs of 50 years of playing this music,” said Benson, who wrote it.

The album also features songs with Willie Nelson, George Strait, Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack and Lyle Lovett.

The 10-time Grammy award-winning band will perform Oct. 15 at the Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park.

The show will feature performances from Asleep at the Wheel alumni — Chris O’Connell and Johnny Nicholas, steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar, bassist Tony Garnier, multi-instrumentalist Danny Levin, pianists Floyd Domino and John Michael Whitby and fiddler Jason Roberts.

“This celebration is bringing back so many of the people that made Asleep at the Wheel what we are,” Benson said.

It’ll also feature a secret special guest.

Benson couldn’t give it away, but he nearly crossed his heart when he said, “you will not be disappointed, and neither will I.”

Tickets for Asleep at the Wheel’s Austin concert are still available for purchase.

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