The number of individual artists and bands who have sustained a thriving career for a half century is infinitely small. Against all odds, Asleep At the Wheel is one of these. The stars aligned in 1970 when three friends Ray Benson, Lucky Oceans and Leroy Preston moved to Paw Paw, West Virginia (it’s not a made-up place, you can look it up). It was there that their dream of forming a band began after a mutual friend gave them access to his uncle’s cabin on an apple orchard just outside of town. The three friends began to – quite literally -- woodshed and found others who would join them in their mission to play old style Roots/Americana music. This was long before the genre/movement even had a name. After a trip to the outhouse, Lucky lived up to his name and suggested the band be called Asleep at the Wheel and so it was to be for the next 50 years.
Not long after that fateful move to Paw Paw, Asleep at the Wheel landed a gig opening for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna in Washington DC, where they met and played with Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. Just a year later, they were coaxed into moving to California’s San Francisco Bay Area by that selfsame Commander Cody. They created a name for themselves out west playing clubs like The Longbranch, Freight and Salvage, Inn of the Beginning and Mandrakes.The band’s big break came in 1973 when they signed their first record deal after Van Morrison mentioned them in a Rolling Stone interview, commenting, “There’s some relatively unknown groups that I dig. Asleep at the Wheel plays great country music.”
Comin’ Right At Ya, their album debut was released was that same year by United Artists. Soon thereafter, Willie Nelson and Doug Sahm recommended they band move to Austin, Texas and so they did. After playing their first show in there at the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters, the band never left and has made Austin their home for more than 45 years. The release of Texas Gold in 1975 brought the band national recognition, with the top-ten country hit single “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read.” The band was also showcased on the very first ever episode of Austin City Limits.To date, they’ve appeared on a total of eleven episodes of the show.