Ray Benson, lead singer for Asleep at the Wheel, will be crooning his particular brand of American roots music at Schroeder Hall on Jan. 16 after the original March concert was canceled because of the pandemic. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
The hall already has sold 400 tickets and the maximum capacity with the pandemic is 550, so tickets might sell out, said Christine Krause, owner of the dance hall.
“In 2020, it was the 50th year for Asleep at the Wheel,” Krause said. “We were supposed to have a big hoopla last year, but we were not able to have the concert. We will be celebrating that even though it’s not 2020 anymore. Their music has been around for so long with so many hits.”
When asked about the band’s staying power, Benson said people like to hear the kind of music the band plays.
“We do it well and not a lot of folks are doing it, plus I never wanted to quit,” Benson said. “We’re called the ‘Postmodern Kings of Western Swing.’”
People will enjoy the show because it’s a great Texas tradition, Benson continued.
“There are precious few great old dance halls and bands like us that play in them. We’ve been playing in the Victoria area for 48 years,” Benson said. “(Schroeder Hall) is one of the quintessential Texas dance halls.”
At one time, there were 1,000 Texas dance halls and now that number has dwindled below 400 in a big state, and there might be fewer than that, Benson said.
“I think it’s wonderful that they revived it and kept it alive, and put a new dance floor in, I heard,” Benson said. “The band will be safe, we all will be tested, and we will keep our distance. Come out and help the hall stay open and the Wheel keep playing.”
When the band started out, the members wanted to carry on the Western swing legacy of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
“Benson fell in love with Western swing because of its unique combination of elements of America blues, swing and traditional fiddling but also for its demanding musical chops. Western swing is what Benson calls ‘jazz with a cowboy hat,’ is a thrill to hear live, and thanks in large part to the Wheel’s 40-plus years of promotion, is a living and creative genre of music today,” according to the band’s website.
During five decades, hundreds of musicians have contributed to the success of the band and many have gone on to successful careers with the likes of George Strait and Bob Dylan. The 6-foot-7 Benson has been the one constant in Asleep at the Wheel since 1970.
“I’ve been told I’m relentless, so I guess I am,” Benson said in a news release. “I’m just doing what I believe I’m meant to do – I’m singing and playing and writing better than I ever have. My role and concept of leading a band has never changed. It’s gathering the best musicians I can find or convince them to play to the best of their ability, and I just try to make the best decisions possible and kick some ass every night onstage. I’ve made it this far and don’t feel like I or the band will be slowing down anytime soon.”
Summer Dean will open for Asleep at the Wheel at 9 p.m. at Schroeder Hall.
“She’s also from Texas, a strong female country performer,” Krause said. “She has that twangy kind of voice and they asked that she open for them.”
Asleep at the Wheel will take the stage at 10:30 p.m. for a 90-minute show. Presale tickets are $25 each. On the day of the concert, tickets will sell for $45 each.
Asleep at the Wheel has received 10 Grammy Awards and was cited by the Country Music Association as the 1976 Touring Band of the Year. In 2009, the Americana Music Association gave the Lifetime Achievement Award to the band. The band has released 31 albums and charted more than 20 singles on country charts. Of the band’s catalog, Billboard commented, “Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular,” according to a news release.
Asleep at the Wheel is working on a new record for release for 2021.
The show at Schroeder Hall will be a treat because the band often performs in theater settings rather than dance hall settings, which are not as plenty as they once were. The legendary band has deep roots in Austin, though it tours across the United States and around the world. In October, PBS’s “Austin City Limits” aired a special retrospective of the band’s 11 appearances on the show called “ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel.” The band has become a mainstay of the show over the years.
“From performing on the series’ very first episode to modern-day collaborations with legends like Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett, Asleep at the Wheel has woven a 50-year thread through Texas and American music history, and Austin City Limits played quite the part in it,” according to a band news release.