NEPA Scene Staff

Asleep at the Wheel celebrates 50 years of country music at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on April 8, 2022

Asleep at the Wheel celebrates 50 years of country music at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on April 8, 2022
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From a press release:

It was announced today that 10-time Grammy Award-winning Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, who are celebrating 50 years of making country music with a new album this year, will perform at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe on Friday, April 8, 2022.

Doors at Penn’s Peak (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe) open at 6 p.m., and the concert starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets, which are $25 in advance or $30 the day of the show, go on sale next Friday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. ​via Ticketmaster, the Penn’s Peak box office, and at Roadies Restaurant and Bar (325 Maury Rd., Jim Thorpe). Box office and Roadies Restaurant ticket sales are walk-up only; no phone orders.

The number of individual artists and bands who have sustained a thriving career for a half century is infinitesimally small. Against all odds, Asleep at the Wheel is one of them. The stars aligned in 1970 when three friends – Ray Benson, Lucky Oceans, and Leroy Preston – moved to Paw Paw, West Virginia (it’s not a made-up place – you can look it up). It was there that their dream of forming a band began after a mutual friend gave them access to his uncle’s cabin on an apple orchard just outside of town. The trio began to, quite literally, woodshed and found others who would join them in their mission to play old style roots/Americana music, long before the genre/movement even had a name. After a trip to the outhouse, Lucky lived up to his name and suggested the band be called Asleep at the Wheel, and so it was to be for the next 50 years.

Since their debut album “Comin’ Right at Ya” come out in 1973, Asleep at the Wheel has received 10 Grammy Awards, was cited by the Country Music Association as 1976 Touring Band of the Year, and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Americana Music Association in 2009. They have released 31 albums and charted more than 20 singles on the country charts. Billboard commented on the band’s catalog most succinctly: “Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular.”

Most recently, Asleep at the Wheel has been invigorated by a fresh new lineup and the 2018 release of “New Routes,” their latest album that is a bracing blend of original songs and vibrant cover material, along with some unanticipated new musical tangents. The group has demonstrated, convincingly, that they are more relevant, enjoyable, and musically nimble than at any time in its 50-year history. The 6’7” Ray Benson has been the one constant in Asleep At the Wheel since 1970.

“I’ve been told that I’m relentless, so I guess I am,” he said.

“I’m just doing what I believe I’m meant to do – I’m singing and playing and writing better than I ever have. My role and concept of leading a band has never changed. It’s gathering the best musicians I can find or convince to play to the best of their ability, and I just try and make the best decisions possible and kick some ass every night onstage. I’ve made it this far and don’t feel like I or the band will be slowing down anytime soon.”

Still “Comin’ Right at Ya” five decades later later, Asleep at the Wheel will mark their 50th anniversary with “Half a Hundred Years,” a new album set for release on Oct. 1. The 19 tracks include original band members, current band members, songs from the vaults that have never been released, and special guest artists like Lyle Lovett, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris.