fbpx
Home » blog » Asleep at the Wheel Celebrates Bob Wills and Western Swing
Country

Asleep at the Wheel Celebrates Bob Wills and Western Swing

Asleep at the Wheel more or less can be defined as an ongoing tribute to the western swing music made famous by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. It is a generational band in which players are expected to come and go over time. Of course, many rock bands have become the same thing due to their unexpected longevity. It seems part of Asleep at the Wheel’s overall strategy rather than something that happened by accident, however.

Western swing is a lot of fun. Here is AllMusic’s definition: “Western Swing was the most eclectic form of country music and in its free-wheeling diversity, it set the stage for rock & roll. Based in traditional string band music, Western swing also incorporated traditional pop melodies, jazz improvisation, blues, and folk, creating a wildly entertaining and eclectic form of American music.” Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys are the kings of western swing. Asleep at the Wheel pays continual homage to the band. Click here or on the image for the band’s greatest hits at Amazon. Here it is at iTunes.

Wikipedia added the genre developed in Texas, Oklahoma and California in the late 1920s. It is an up tempo mix of jazz, rural and cowboy music, polka, folk, Dixieland and blues.

In other words, it is deeply American music. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys is the best remembered western swing band. Others, according to Wikipedia, include some great names: The Light Crust Doughboys, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, Spade Cooley and His Orchestra (who I believe Ed Norton gave a shout out to in an episode of “The Honeymooners”) and Hank Thompson And His Brazos Valley Boys. The article adds that The Hot Club of Cowtown is a current western swing band.

The discography at Wikipedia lists 32 albums, eight current members and 33 alums for Asleep at the Wheel. The band was formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia in 1969 and played the rock circuit: Early on, it opened for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna. Five years later – supposedly at the suggestion of Willie Nelson – Asleep at the Wheel moved to Austin, Texas. The profiles note that Van Morrison was an early proponent and that the band got important help from Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.

The bio simply is too long and exhaustive to dive into. It covers decades and features a small army of people, a lot of albums, a lot of guest performances and a lot of changes.

AllMusic credits “The Wheel,” as Steve Huey (and probably others) calls the band, with keeping alive and updating western swing, which is an enjoyable and important music. It’s a big band, Huey writes, usually featuring 11 to 13 players. So far, it has released three albums directly celebrating Bob Wills. All the others most likely are indirect tributes.

AllMusic was cited in the blue box.

Sign Up for TDMB Daily Email Blasts

TDMB offers daily one-video email blasts. A different genre each day of the week. They are quick hits: Just great music and a bit of context.

Sign up below or, for more info, click here.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵

The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

Top