Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel is an American country music group that was formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia[1] and is based in Austin, Texas. The band has won nine Grammy Awards since their 1970 inception, released over twenty albums, and has charted more than 21 singles on the Billboard country charts. Their highest-charting single, "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read", peaked at No. 10 in 1975.

Asleep at the Wheel
Asleep at the Wheel performing in San Diego, California
Background information
OriginPaw Paw, West Virginia, United States
GenresWestern swing, Texas country, Ameripolitan
Years active1970–present
LabelsBismeaux, DreamWorks, Capitol Nashville, Epic, MCA Nashville, Shout! Factory
  • Ray Benson
  • Katie Shore
  • Eddie Rivers
  • David Sanger
  • Dennis Ludiker
  • Josh Hoag
  • Connor Forsyth
  • Jay Reynolds
Past membersSee #Former members


Beginnings to Austin

In 1969, Ray Benson and Lucky Oceans (Reuben Gosfield) co-founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia, and soon after they found themselves opening for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna in Washington, DC.[1] A year later, they moved to East Oakland, California, at the invitation of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.[2] After being mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine by Van Morrison, they landed a record deal with United Artists.[2][3] In 1973, their debut album, Comin' Right At Ya, was released by United Artists. At the invitation of Willie Nelson, they left Oakland for Austin in 1974.[1]

1974 – 1979

In 1974, Asleep at the Wheel released its self-titled second album, with a cover of Louis Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", which was the band's first single to hit the country charts. The following year had the release of Texas Gold, with the top-ten Country hit single "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read". In addition, they played on PBS's Austin City Limits, where they have since performed a record-setting 10 times.[1] In 1977, the band was voted Best Country Western Band by Rolling Stone and was awarded the Touring Band of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. They also went on tour with Emmylou Harris in Europe.[1] The following year, they recorded a cover of Count Basie's song "One O'Clock Jump".[2] Also in 1980, they appeared in the movie Roadie, along with Meat Loaf, Blondie, and Art Carney. By the end of the decade, the band recorded their first live album, Served Live, at the Austin Opera House.[1]

1980 – 1989

The 1980s became a turbulent decade for the band. After moving to MCA, co-founder Lucky Oceans left, followed in September 1986 by Chris O'Connell due to her pregnancy. Asleep at the Wheel gathered a large amount of debt that required it to work on commercials and movie soundtracks. This band produced the soundtrack for the film Liar's Moon.

In 1985, the band released a virtually ignored self-titled album.[2] By the late 1980s, Ray Benson had done some producing, allowing the band a second chance with Epic Records. In 1987, the band released 10, which won them their second Grammy for Best Country Instrumental, helping to launch their comeback. The album also had contributions from legendary fiddle player and onetime Texas Playboys member Johnny Gimble.[2] The following year, the band released Western Standard Time, which won them another Grammy for Best Country Instrumental.[2] The late 1980s also had the growth of Jann Browne as a solo vocalist in the group; she would later embark on a solo career on Curb Records.[4]

1990 – 1999

The band moved to Arista Records and released the album, Keepin' Me Up Nights. Soon after, the band had turnover. Among its new members was former solo singer Rosie Flores, who joined in 1997.[5] In 1991, Ray Benson directed the music[1] and co-starred in the movie Wild Texas Wind with Dolly Parton.[6] In honor of the 66th anniversary of Route 66, the band launched the Route 66 Tour.[1] In 1993, the band released an instant hit with several guest musicians,[1] A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, to much critical acclaim.[2] Two years later, the band celebrated their 25th anniversary[1] by releasing The Wheel Keeps on Rollin.[2] In 1999, the band and DreamWorks released Ride with Bob, as their second tribute album to Bob Wills. This album also enjoyed immediate success and garnered the band two Grammy wins, one for Best Country Instrumental,[1] and the other for Best Package Design.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Ray Benson "didn't just enlist the obvious Wills fans" in this tribute album to Bob Wills like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett. He also brought in some of country's young lions the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, and Lee Ann Womack, some pop stars", including Shawn Colvin, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and fellow country preservationists such as Dwight Yoakam.[7]

2000 and onward

In 2000, the Dixie Chicks were nominated for an award for Vocal Event of the Year for "Roly Poly" with Asleep at the Wheel from the Country Music Association.[8] That same year, the band toured with Bob Dylan and George Strait. Benson recorded a tribute to Wills and Texas swing music, including Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, the Dixie Chicks, and Willie Nelson.[1][9] They were scheduled to play at the White House on the fateful September 11, 2001.[1] In 2003, the band released Live at Billy Bob's Texas, and by the end of the decade, the band had released two more albums: Reinventing the Wheel, an entirely new set of songs, including a collaboration with The Blind Boys of Alabama, and a two-disc set Kings of Texas Swing.[10] In 2007, their second Christmas album was released, Santa Loves to Boogie.

Asleep at the Wheel received six Austin Music Awards for their efforts in 2007, including Band of the Year, Songwriter of the Year (Benson), Country Band of the Year, Record Producer of the Year (Benson), Male Vocals of the Year (Benson), and Acoustic Guitar Player of the Year (McQueen).[11]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Asleep at the Wheel among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[12]


Current members

  • Ray Benson
  • Katie Shore
  • Eddie Rivers
  • David Sanger
  • Dennis Ludiker
  • Josh Hoag
  • Connor Forsyth
  • Jay Reynolds

Former members



Year Album Chart Positions[2] Label
US Country
CAN Country
1973 Comin' Right at Ya EMI
1974 Asleep at the Wheel Epic
1975 Fathers & Sons [1 Side]
Texas Gold 7 136 Capitol
1976 Wheelin' & Dealin' 19 179
1977 The Wheel 31 162
1978 Collision Course 47 19
1979 Served Live
1980 Framed 191 MCA
1985 Pasture Prime
1985 Asleep at the Wheel [1985]
1987 10 16 Epic
1988 Western Standard Time 34
1990 Keepin' Me Up Nights 73 Arista
1991 Asleep At The Wheel-Live & Kickin' Greatest Hits 73 Bmg Special Product
1992 Route 66 Liberty
1993 Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys 35 159 17
1995 The Wheel Keeps on Rollin' 3 Capitol
1997 Back to the Future Now – Live at Arizona... Sony
Merry Texas Christmas, Y'All 75 High Street
1999 Ride with BobA 24 DreamWorks
2003 Take Me Back to Tulsa Evangeline
Wide Awake!: Live in Oklahoma Delta
Live at Billy Bob's Texas Smith Music Group
Remembers the Alamo Shout! Factory
2006 Live from Austin, TX New West
2007 Reinventing the Wheel Mega Force
Kings of Texas Swing (CD/DVD) Cleopatra
Santa Loves to Boogie MRI
Asleep at the Wheel with The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Independent
2009 Willie and the Wheel (with Willie Nelson) 13 90 Bismeaux
2010 It's a Good Day 57
2015 Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys 11 187
Willie Nelson and Friends (with Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker and Shirley Collie) 39 Cracker Barrel
2018 New Routes[15] Bismeaux


Year Single Peak chart
US Country CAN Country
1973 "Before You Stop Loving Me" Comin' Right at Ya
"Daddy's Advice"
1974 "Don't Ask Me Why" Asleep at the Wheel
"Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" 69
1975 "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read" 10 32 Texas Gold
"Bump, Bounce, Boogie" 31 47
1976 "Nothin' Takes the Place of You" 35 30
"Route 66" 48 47 Wheelin' and Dealin'
"Miles and Miles of Texas" 38
1977 "Trouble with Lovin' Today" 34
"Let's Face Up" The Wheel
1978 "Ghost Dancer" Collision Course
"Texas Me and You" 75
1979 "Too Many Bad Habits" Served Live
1980 "Don't Get Caught Out in the Rain" Framed
1987 "Way Down Texas Way" 39 Ten
"House of Blue Lights" 17 12
"Boogie Back to Texas" 53
1988 "Blowin' Like a Bandit" 59
"Walk On By" 55 * Western Standard Time
"Hot Rod Lincoln" 65 *
1989 "Chattanooga Choo Choo"
1990 "Keepin' Me Up Nights" 54 63 Keepin' Me Up Nights
"That's the Way Love Is" 60 83
1991 "Dance with Who Brung You" 71
1992 "Route 66" (re-release) Route 66
1993 "Red Wing" Tribute to Bob Wills
1994 "Blues for Dixie"
"Corrine, Corrina" (with Brooks & Dunn) 73
1995 "Hightower" Wheel Keeps On Rollin'
1996 "Lay Down Sally" 70
2007 "Am I Right (Or Amarillo)" Reinventing the Wheel
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country
* denotes unknown peak positions

Other charted songs

Year Single US Country Album
2000 "Roly Poly" (with Dixie Chicks) 65 Ride with Bob

Music videos

Year Video Director
1987 "Way Down Texas Way"
"Boogie Back to Texas" Bob Small
1988 "Hot Rod Lincoln"[16][17] Wayne Miller
1990 "Keepin' Me Up Nights"
1993 "Old Fashioned Love" (with Suzy Bogguss)
1994 “Blues for Dixie” (with Lyle Lovett) Jim May
1995 "Bring It On Down to My House"
"Lay Down Sally" Mark Shuman
1997 "Christmas in Jail"
1999 "Cherokee Maiden"[18] Dan Karlok
2001 "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens"[19] Eric McDonald
2009 "Hesitation Blues" (with Willie Nelson) Zalman King
2015 "Tiger Rag"
2018 "Seven Nights to Rock
"Jack I'm Mellow"


  1. "Asleep at the Wheel Official Site". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
  2. "Allmusic – Asleep at the Wheel". AllMusic. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  3. Grissim Jr., John (June 22, 1972). "Van Morrison: The Rolling Stone interview". Rolling Stone Magazine. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  4. Deming, Mark. "Jann Browne biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 7, 2008.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved June 27, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Wild Texas Wind". Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  7. Archived December 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Archived May 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. Morning Edition (October 14, 1999). "Western Swing". NPR. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  10. "Kings of Texas Swing". Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  11. "Austin Music Awards". Archived from the original on May 2, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  12. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  13. "Asleep at the Wheel > Chart History: Top Country Albums". Billboard.
  14. "Asleep at the Wheel > Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard.
  15. Page, Jeff (September 26, 2018). "Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson on Western Swing Band's Legacy, New Album". Rolling Stone.
  16. "New Videoclips" (PDF). Billboard. November 12, 1988. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  17. "CMT : Videos : Asleep at the Wheel : Hot Rod Lincoln". Country Music Television. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  18. "CMT : Videos : Asleep at the Wheel : Cherokee Maiden". Country Music Television. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  19. "CMT : Videos : Asleep at the Wheel : Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens". Country Music Television. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
Preceded by
Jason & the Scorchers
AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing
Not Yet Awarded
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