Inquiring Minds

Ray Benson: "Before Keith Richards, There Was Bob Wills"

Although he grew up outside Philadelphia, Ray Benson is the quintessential Texas musician. Somewhere in his rambling South Austin studio/office compound is a proclamation declaring him the 2004 official state musician, not to mention the umpteen Grammys he's won as front man and bandleader of Western Swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel.

Benson also hosts Texas Music Scene, the weekly showcase of Red Dirt artists like Stoney LaRue, Mark McKinney, the Eli Young Band and Cory Morrow - as well as other Lone Star musicians such as Alejandro Escovedo and Carolyn Wonderland - that airs in more than 15 markets around the state, including in Houston after Saturday Night Live on Channel 2. As a producer and owner of Bismeaux Records, he just wrapped Wonderland's new album and released this spring's debut by insurgent Austin roots-rockers the Wheeler Brothers.

In 2005, Benson and Texas-born screenwriter Anne Rapp (Dr. T and the Women, Cookie's Fortune) wrote A Ride With Bob: The Bob Wills Musical, a quasi-fictional account of Wills' life that features 15 of the late Western Swing icon's songs performed by (of course) Asleep at the Wheel. In a sort of Christmas Carol in cowboy boots, Benson plays "Ray Benson," a burned-out, road-weary Western Swing musician who rediscovers his mojo after encountering a tour-bus driver who just happens to be - or claims to be - the ghost of Bob Wills.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray