Asleep at the Wheel’s all-star homecoming

photo by Scott Newton

It’s always a thrill to welcome back ACL alumni. It’s an even bigger thrill to re-open the stage to a band that was literally there from the beginning. Asleep at the Wheel appeared in ACL’s first official episode in 1976, joined by Bob Wills’ Original Texas Playboys. It’s now 40 years down the road, and Austin’s beloved Western swing institution returns for their tenth taping in salute to the Playboys’ vast catalog.

After opening with straightforward renditions of “Cherokee Maiden” and “Miles and Miles of Texas” (which is as much a Wheel standard at this point as a Playboys staple), bandleader Ray Benson welcomed 92-year-old saxophonist Billy Briggs, who was a 1950s-era Playboy, to the stage for a hopping take on “Route 66,” co-sung by pianist Emily Gimble, the granddaughter of former Playboy (and frequent ACL guest) Johnny Gimble. The band then took a skillful, joyful trip through Wills’ back catalog, hitting not only the obvious hits (“San Antonio Rose,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Faded Love”) but titles that ring bells only with hardcore Western swing fans (“Keeper of My Heart,” “It’s All Your Fault,” “A Good Man’s Hard to Find”). Ending the first half with the party-hearty “Big Balls in Cowtown,” the Wheel brought the crowd to their feet.

For the second half, the band brought out some special guests. The Quebe Sisters, a trio from Burleson, TX, brought triple harmonies to both their fiddles and their Andrews Sisters-styled vocals on “Navajo Trail” and “Across the Alley.” Amos Lee gave “I Hear Ya Talkin’” and “Sweet Pea” a bluesily soulful spin. The Avett Brothers and their band turned “Girl I Left Behind Me” and “Take Me Back to Tulsa” (the Wheel’s first song on their debut episode 40 years prior) into down-home folk songs as much as Western swing. Then came the night’s biggest coup, as former Playboys singer Leon Rausch, who played with Wills in the ‘50s and with the Playboys on ACL’s 10th anniversary episode in front of the Texas capitol, arrived onstage for a rousing “Milk Cow Blues.” Eighty-eight years young. Rausch hasn’t lost a step and the audience showed its appreciation.

The entire ensemble then took the stage for a nifty run through the “Texas Playboys Theme,” which used to open the Playboys’ radio show; the band interpolated “Happy Trails” into the old chestnut. The Wheel encored with another of its standards, the jumping “Choo Choo Ch-Boogie,” before closing things out with a crowd singalong on country superstar – and Western swing fanatic – George Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas.” We can’t imagine a better way to complete a circle that began in the mid-70s, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs later this year on PBS.

 

Live Stream our taping with Asleep at the Wheel and special guests

Live stream Asleep At The Wheel

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce a live stream of Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel joined by special guests The Avett Brothers and Amos Lee, in a special tribute to the late Bob Wills, King of Western swing. The taping, Tuesday, February 24th @ 9pm ET/ 8pm CT, is the first of ACL’s new season, and will be live streamed worldwide directly from ACL’s stage via the show’s YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/austincitylimitstv. Fans can log on to watch the entire taping as it happens live from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. The broadcast episode will air on PBS this fall as part of the legendary music series upcoming Season 41. The show’s hashtag is #acltv. The live stream is powered by ACL underwriter Dell Computers.

Asleep at the Wheel were featured in ACL’s first official episode in 1976 along with The Texas Playboys, and their return marks an incredible eleventh appearance on the program. Asleep at the Wheel are also the newest members of the ACL Hall of Fame, and will be inducted at a ceremony to be held in Austin later this year. The legendary band releases their highly-anticipated new Bob Wills tribute album Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys on March 3rd, featuring an all-star line-up of special guests, including ACL veterans Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, The Avett Brothers, George Strait, Kat Edmonson and Merle Haggard.  Founded in 1970 and based in Austin, TX, Asleep at the Wheel, lead by founder Ray Benson, has won nine GRAMMY awards, released more than 20 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard charts. For over 40 years, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel have been the chief practitioners, conspirators and caretakers of Western swing, carrying Bob Wills’ traditions well into the 21st century, reaching both their contemporaries and the next generation of artists inspired by the great bandleader.

ACL recently announced the inductees for its second annual ACL Hall of Fame and the first round of tapings for the series’ upcoming Season 41, which also include the Grammy nominated country rebel Sturgill Simpson and acclaimed rock outfit The War on Drugs.

New Tapings: Asleep at the Wheel, Sturgill Simpson & The War on Drugs

photo by Crackerfarm

Austin City Limits announced the first round of new tapings for the series upcoming Season 41!

Feb. 24 sees the return of Austin City Limits veteran and new Hall of Fame inductee Asleep at the Wheel. The premier Western swing band not only of Texas but of the United States, the Wheel first appeared on the show in Season 1, way back in 1976, and most recently in Season 35 with Willie Nelson. Now leader Ray Benson and company return in support of the upcoming Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, with special guests Amos Lee and The Avett Brothers in tow. We’re happy to welcome Asleep at the Wheel back for its eleventh taping.

On April 1st, we welcome acclaimed country singer Sturgill Simpson to the Austin City Limits stage. The Kentucky native released his first album High Top Mountain in 2013, establishing his philosophical brand of outlaw country. He broke out with his second LP Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which earned Simpson national press coverage and the Emerging Artist of the Year Award at the 2014 Americana Music Awards & Honors. We’re proud to welcome Simpson for his ACL debut.

photo by Dusdin Condren

April also brings another Austin City Limits debut for the much-lauded rock band The War On Drugs. Following the Philadelphia group’s breakout with 2011’s Slave Ambient and two years of non-stop touring, TWOD – led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Adam Granduciel – reached a new peak with the celebrated Lost in the Dream. Pitchfork calls it a record “loaded with songs whose greatness is revealed slowly, where the simplest, most understated chord change can blow a track wide open and elevate it from simply pretty to absolutely devastating.” We’re thrilled to bring the shimmering indie rock of The War On Drugs to the ACL stage for the first time on April 6th.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Asleep at the Wheel 2/24

asleep

New Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees Asleep at the Wheel will be joined by guest stars including The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee and others for a special Bob Wills’ tribute on Feb. 24th.

This taping will be livestreamed on ACL’s Youtube channel

Austin City Limits announces 2015 Hall of Fame inductees

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits is proud to announce the newest class of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees with five legendary artists being honored: Western swing institution Asleep at the Wheel, country trailblazer Loretta Lynn, songwriting legend Guy Clark, master Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jiménez and Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt. The announcement was made January 29 by ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona at Austin’s Rattle Inn.  The 2015 ACL Hall of Fame inductees will be celebrated at a ceremony highlighted by all-star music performances to be held in June at ACL’s studio home, Austin’s ACL Live at The Moody Theater. The event will be open to the public and ticket onsale information will be announced at a later date.

The newest class of inductees features artists who have all graced the ACL stage multiple times, setting the standard for excellence and contributing to four decades of incredible performances. This year’s class also recognizes in the non-performer category the original ACL crew, who played an important role in the launch and continuing success of the influential series and some of whom are still part of the crew today.

“I am truly honored to be included in this year’s ACL Hall of Fame,” said Asleep at the Wheel founder Ray Benson who was on hand for the announcement.  “After Willie did the pilot in 1974-5, Asleep at the Wheel was selected to do the first regular episode of ACL.  Joe Gracey and I were roommates then, and he was booking the show.  He asked who we wanted to share the bill with and I said, ‘The Texas Playboys, Bob Wills’ great band!’  That episode is now housed at the Smithsonian.  Over the years I have appeared in numerous episodes both as a featured performer and a guest performer, and I cannot imagine our 45-year career without the exposure that ACL afforded us. Many thanks to the great staff who make the show what it is!”

ACL also announced the first round of new tapings for the series upcoming Season 41: breakout country rebel and Grammy-nominated Sturgill Simpson, acclaimed rock outfit The War on Drugs, and, in a special Bob Wills’ tribute, new Hall of Fame inductees Asleep at the Wheel, joined by guest stars including The Avett Brothers and Amos Lee.

photo by Crackerfarm

New episodes of ACL are currently airing as part of the series’ milestone Season 40, with upcoming premieres featuring The Black Keys (Jan. 31) and the Foo Fighters (Feb. 7). Foo Fighters recently immortalized ACL in an episode of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song, “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness,” in ACL’s historic Studio 6A.  ACL closes out this triumphant season with a special installment premiering Feb. 14, featuring inductions and performance highlights from the first-ever Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation.

The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame was established in 2014 in conjunction with the iconic television series’ 40th Anniversary to celebrate the legacy of legendary artists and key individuals who have been instrumental in the landmark series’ remarkable 40 years as an American music institution. The invitation-only inaugural induction ceremony took place April 26, 2014 at ACL’s original Studio 6A. Hosted by Oscar-winning actor and Texas native Matthew McConaughey, the historic evening honored the first class of inductees, featuring American music icon Willie Nelson who starred on the original ACL pilot program, Austin blues rock giants Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and legendary steel guitarist and Grammy Award-winning music producer Lloyd Maines, in addition to non-performers who played a key role in the evolution of the program: original show creator Bill Arhos and longtime ACL supporter, Texas Longhorns football head coach Darrell Royal. A star-studded line-up paid tribute with incredible music performances, including: Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph, Doyle Bramhall II and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

About the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Honorees:

Asleep at the Wheel

Based in Austin, TX, Asleep at the Wheel formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia in 1970. Since their inception, the venerable Texas swing band lead by founder Ray Benson has won nine GRAMMY awards, released more than 20 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. In 1972, the band signed their first record deal after Van Morrison mentioned they “play great country music” in an interview in Rolling Stone. They have appeared on Austin City Limits ten times, including the program’s first official episode in 1976 along with The Texas Playboys.  Asleep at the Wheel’s star-studded upcoming release Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys features guest appearances by ACL veterans Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, The Avett Brothers, George Strait, Kat Edmonson and Merle Haggard.

photo by

Flaco Jiménez

San Antonio, TX born conjunto musician Flaco Jiménez has enjoyed a career that has spanned more than six decades, throughout which, he has collaborated with artists such as Willie Nelson, the Texas Tornados, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Doug Sahm, and The Rolling Stones. Jiménez is a five-time ACL guest, first appearing in the program’s debut season. A five-time GRAMMY winner who is also a 2015 recipient of a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, Jiménez maintains a huge influence on the Tex-Mex genre by continuing to record and tour, as he upholds his status as the definitive Tex-Mex accordionist.

photo by Scott Newton

Loretta Lynn

An American music treasure with a storied career, Loretta Lynn is a living legend with over seventy chart hits, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. She appeared on two classic episodes of ACL in 1983 and 1998. As her most famous song says, she is a proud Kentucky-born coal miner’s daughter, who went on to become one of the most influential women in the history of American music.

photo by Scott Newton

Townes Van Zandt

One of the Lone Star state’s greatest songwriters, the Fort Worth native set the standard for legions of Texas troubadours and made two memorable appearances on ACL. Van Zandt appeared in the very first season in 1976, in addition to joining Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and David Halley for a renowned ACL songwriters special in 1983. ACL aired a tribute show in 1998 led by longtime friend Guy Clark and Townes’ son J.T. that was so popular it encored in 2000 as an ACL Classic. Called “one of the best songwriters that ever lived” by many, Van Zandt left behind an inestimable legacy – a few of his classics include “Pancho & Lefty,” “To Live is To Fly,” “If I Needed You,” “Tecumseh Valley,” “Waitin’ Round to Die,” “Lungs” and “A Song For.”

photo by Scott Newton

Guy Clark

A West Texas native, Guy Clark has built a career of writing starkly honest story-songs. He’s one of the finest living songwriters in American folk music, holding up the legacy of his late friend Townes Van Zandt. NPR raves “If you want to learn how to write a song — one that’s built to last, with vivid characters and images that plant you squarely inside a scene — listen to Guy Clark.” Bob Dylan counts Clark among his handful of favorite songwriters. His first album Old No. 1 came out in 1975 and the revered songwriter has made seven stunning appearances on ACL.

photo by Scott Newton

 

Encore: Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel

photo by Scott Newton

It goes like this: Willie Nelson starred in the pilot for Austin City Limits in 1975 and has appeared many times since. Asleep at the Wheel kicked the first episode proper in 1976 and is also a multiple headliner. Amazingly, they’ve rarely collaborated, despite being buddies for 40 years. So when these great Texas artists came together to record 2009’s fantastic Western swing tribute Willie and the Wheel, we had to have this explosion of musical chemistry on the show – especially since it coincided with our 35th anniversary.

Featuring great old tunes like “Right Or Wrong, ‘“Hesitation Blues” and “Fan It,” as well as a handful of Willie classics, the resulting episode has since become one of our all-time favorites. It’s a special show to our beloved audience as well, and we’re happy to present this encore episode. Tune in to your local PBS station this weekend, and you might want to push the furniture against the wall in case you’ve the urge to dance.

Go here for more details on this episode, and check in with our Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages for more ACL info and ephemera. Next week: M Ward and Okkervil River.