The Llano Country Opry will be held on Saturday, August 11. Grammy Award Winners Asleep At The Wheel will headline two shows at the Llano Country Opry with an afternoon concert at 2:30 PM and an evening show at 7:30 PM. Tickets are now on sale at the Llano Chamber of Commerce, Llano National Bank, Lively Computers or by calling (325) 247-5354 or online at http://hillbillyhits.com/Calendar.html.
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. A year later, they moved to East Oakland, California at the invitation of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. After being mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine by Van Morrison, they landed a record deal with United Artists. In 1973, their debut album, Comin’ Right At Ya was released by United Artists. At the request of Willie Nelson, they left Oakland for Austin in 1974.
In 1974, they released their second album, Asleep at the Wheel with a cover ofLouis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie”, which was their first single to hit the country charts. The following year saw the release of Texas Gold as the group’s third album 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 ten times. In 1977, the band was voted Best Country Western Band by Rolling Stone Magazine 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. The following year, they made a cover of Count Basie’s song “One O’Clock Jump”. 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.
The 1980s became a turbulent decade for the band. After moving to MCA, co-founder Lucky Oceans left the band, and Chris O’Connell left in September 1986 due to her pregnancy. Asleep at the Wheel gathered a large amount of debt that required them to work oncommercials 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.] 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. The following year, the band released Western Standard Time, which won them another Grammy for Best Country Instrumental. The late 1980s also saw the growth of Jann Browne as a solo vocalist in the group; she would later embark on a solo career on Curb Records.
The band moved to Arista Records and released the album, Keepin’ Me Up Nights. Soon after, the band saw turnover as old members left and new members entered. In 1991, Ray Benson directed the music and co-starred in the movie Wild Texas Wind with Dolly Parton. In honor of the 66th anniversary of Route 66, the band launched the Route 66 Tour] In 1993, the band released the instant hit] A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys to much critical acclaim with several guest musicians. Two years later, the band celebrated their 25th anniversary by releasing The Wheel Keeps on Rollin’. In 1999, the band and Dreamworksreleased Ride with Bob, as their second tribute album to Bob Wills. This album became an instant hit and garnered the band two Grammy wins, one for Best Country Instrumental, 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.
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. That same year, the band toured with Bob Dylan and George Strait. Benson brought together some of the best talent in country music today to record the tribute to Wills and Texas swing music, including Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, the Dixie Chicks, and Willie Nelson. They were scheduled to play at the White House on the fateful September 11, 2001. In 2003, the band released Live at Billy Bob’s Texas, and by the end of the decade the band had released 2 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.
Other entertainers on the Llano Country Opry will include Colby Shepard, Blake & Kendall Barnes, Rance Norton, Bode Barker, Justin Trevino, Sammy Geistweidt, Don Ricketson, Charlie Walton, Shane Lively and Bucille Snotgrass. Tracy Pitcox will MC the show.