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Asleep at the Wheel digs into 50th year with October events

Peter Blackstock
Ray Benson (far left) and Asleep at the Wheel have a busy October in the works as the band celebrates its 50th anniversary.

They’ve seen miles and miles of Texas, and most everywhere else as well. Nine-time Grammy winner Asleep at the Wheel is marking its 50th anniversary this year, and October brings a rush of events to celebrate the occasion.

First up, on Tuesday at 7 p.m., is a “Songwriter Session” livestream on the Country Music Hall of Fame’s YouTube channel featuring Wheel leader Ray Benson. The museum’s ongoing series features “respected songwriters sharing the stories behind their work in an intimate performance setting,” per the CMHOF website. The session also will air on the museum’s Facebook page, and Benson will take part in a post-session Q&A at 8 p.m. on the CMHOF Instagram account.

Saturday at 7 p.m., Asleep at the Wheel will team up with the Austin Symphony Orchestra for a Butler Pops Series virtual concert. This one’s a ticketed event, with an admission code available for $50 via the ASO website. (It’s free for those who already have a subscription to the Butler Pops Series.) The admission code allows viewing of the event for seven days beyond the initial airdate.

In San Marcos, the Wittliff Collections on the Texas State University campus has opened “Ray Benson: 50 Years,” which “celebrates his contribution to Texas music, his wondrous archives, and his recovery this spring from COVID-19,” according to the Wittliff website. The Wittliff, located on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library, is open to the public; makes are required to enter the building and must be worn while in the Wittliff galleries. The Collections asks that visitors make an appointment online to reserve a free parking space.

Finally, Oct. 31 brings “ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel” to PBS as part of the 46th season of “Austin City Limits.” The western swing outfit recorded the first formal episode of the iconic music television program in 1976, following Willie Nelson’s 1974 pilot episode. The Wheel has performed on the show 10 more times since then. The hourlong retrospective will feature highlights from those appearances. Here’s the full set list for what will air:

“The Letter That Johnny Walker Read,” 1976

"Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” 1978

“Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” 1996

"Roly Poly" with the Texas Playboys, 1993

“Hesitation Blues” with Willie Nelson, 2009

“Nothing Takes The Place of You,” 1976

“Blues for Dixie” with Lyle Lovett, 2016 ACL Hall of Fame show

“Let Me Go Home Whiskey,” 1976

“After You’ve Gone” with Willie Nelson, Freddy Powers and Johnny Gimble, 1981

“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” 2015

“Boogie Back to Texas,” 1988

“Milk Cow Blues,” 2015

“Miles and Miles of Texas,” 1980/1996/2002

“Choo Choo Boogie.” 1978/1988/1996

“Pancho & Lefty” with Willie Nelson, 2009

“Take Me Back to Tulsa” with the Avett Brothers and Vince Gill, 1976/1978/1996/2015

“Cotton Eyed Joe,” 1980

READ MORE:Our 2018 interview with Alseep at the Wheel