Cosmic Cowboys and Redneck Rockers: The 40-Year Reunion
Forty years ago, the burgeoning singer-songwriter scene in Austin spearheaded a generational shift in country music, as a motley mix of folkies and hippies swept old hillbilly string and swing music into a post-Dylan world. Texas and Nashville would never be the same. Three legendary singers, songwriters, and performers share their stories about life at the dawn of the progressive country movement.
A staff writer at Texas Monthly since 2002, John Spong was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 and has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism. His stories have been collected in The Best American Sports Writing 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), Literary Austin (TCU Press, 2007), and Rio Grande (University of Texas Press, 2004). He holds a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.
Over the course of the last four decades, Asleep at the Wheel has boldly defied the fickle lures of the mainstream -- and thrived -- by sticking to their noble cause of keeping that distinctly American of art forms, Western Swing, alive and kicking. Along the way, they've entertained millions and won praise and admiration from everyone from Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan, George Strait to Van Morrison. For their efforts through the years, they’ve managed to pick up nine GRAMMY awards. Founded in 1970 in Paw Paw, West Virginia, the band gained recognition in the San Francisco Bay area before finally settling permanently in Austin, TX in 1973. Front man from the beginning, Ray Benson, with the big voice and 6’ 7” stature, brings yet another generation into the fold, evoking with each performance the legacy and continuing vitality of a music first popularized by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.