Asleep at the Wheel
Mackey Auditorium, Boulder
April 5, 2024

“Hey, Ray! It’s great to see you again!”*

“Likewise, ol’ buddy. I haven’t seen you around lately.”

“Well, Asleep at the Wheel tours a lot and it’s tough to catch you guys every time you come through town.”

“Well, it’s what we do, you know.”

“Yeah, and you’ve been doing it for a long time now.”

“Since 1970, so that’s 54 years now.”

“Well, Ray, I, for one, am really glad you’re doing it. I think I’ve been going to your shows for about 48 of those years. Hey, remember those shows back in the ‘70s at Sam’s Olde Town Ballroom in Fort Collins? I saw you guys there many times!”

“Oh yeah, we’d play Sam’s and then we’d come down here to Boulder and play Tulagi’s. I remember the first time we played there. We stayed at the KOA Kampground because Chuck Morris didn’t pay us diddly.”

“I hope you have some better accommodations now. I remember at least one time through Colorado in the ‘70s, you had both Chris O’Connell and Mary Ann Price in the band. With you in the middle and those two flanking you, it was quite a sight and even better sounds.”

“Yep, that was a great line-up. Those gals could really sing and we had a great time.”

“By the way, your voice sounds great tonight.”

“Thanks. It’s how I make my living, so I gotta take care of it.”

“Hey, it looks like you have a lot more friends with you tonight than usual.”

“Yeah, about 65 more than normal because we’re doing the symphonic thing tonight with the CU Symphony Orchestra.”

“You know, in the past, I’ve likened putting a symphony with a swingin’ band like yours to throwing an anchor overboard from a speeding motorboat.”

“That’s a little harsh. Maybe you just need to open your mind a bit. Besides, after 54 years of touring, we need to mix things up a bit.”

“I can see your point about that. But can all these players swing?”

“Sure! Well, pretty much anyway. You just have to wrangle them little critters and keep ‘em in line.”

“That sounds like a lot of work.”

“It is, but that’s the job of their conductor, Gary Lewis.”

“Gary Lewis and the Playboys?”

“Hey, that’s my line.”

“Well, it’s a good one. I noticed there’s a program they’re handing out to the audience. It has the set list and everything. That doesn’t seem to go very well with the free-Wheeling nature of your band.”

“This is a classy gig. It’s a symphony! Nice pun, by the way.”

“Thanks. So maybe it’s not a bad thing to mix things up a bit.”

“Right, plus it lets us expand into another genre.”

“That would be Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy.’”

“Yes! Beethoven for symphony and country swing band!”

“Did you know Billy Joel played ‘Ode to Joy’ on his recent TV special?”

“It’s a hit!”

“He did it as part of ‘My Life’”

“I think it’s better as a stand-alone piece.”

“Me too. You followed up ‘Ode to Joy’ with ‘Choo, Choo Boogie.’ I was happy to hear you still put Monk’s ‘Straight, No Chaser’ into the middle of the tune.”

“Thanks for catching that. Not everybody does.”

“That was a highlight. Within the space of five minutes, we heard Beethoven, Louis Jordan and Thelonius Monk.”

“All with a country twang.”

“Of course.”

“We aim to please. But, like I said in the introduction to ‘Ode to Joy,’ it’s all about the melody. If a song has a great melody, I don’t care what ‘genre’ people want to pigeonhole a song, we’ll play it!”

“The orchestra definitely helped you out on ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ which was embedded in ‘Cherokee Maiden.’”

“Yep, a big horn section sounds great on that one. And I have to give credit to our arranger, Jeff Tyzik. He wrote out all those parts for all those musicians and I think he did a great job.”

“I remember him. He did some jazz fusion albums back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

“Now he arranges all kinds of music and I was happy to get him into some country swing.”

“Well, that’s not much of a stretch from jazz.”

“Boy, howdy!”

“I also liked your dedication of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ to Commander Cody.”

“George Frayne, may he rest in peace. Of course, he was starting out about the same time we were doing the same kind of stuff; mashing up country, jazz, rock, and whatever else we could get our hands on.”

“And both bands did ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ and ‘House of Blue Lights’ as well.”

“Those are just great tunes, so it’s no wonder we both picked them. I sure miss George.”

“Ray, it was great to see you again. I know I have to let you go hit the dusty trail.”

“So long, pardner. Happy trails to ya.”

*My imaginary conversation with my old friend Ray Benson (whom I’ve never met), leader of Asleep at the Wheel. Some statements attributed to him come from his comments on stage Saturday night or from the program or from the Wheel website. Others I just made up. — Geoff Anderson

Set List:

First Set
Devil’s Dream
Miles and Miles of Texas
Don’t Fence Me In
Route 66
When You Wish Upon a Star
San Antonio Rose
Faded Love
Ode to Joy
Choo Choo Boogie

Second Set
Cherokee Maiden/Sing, Sing, Sing
South of the Border
Call It a Day Tonight
Milk Cow Blues
What a Wonderful World
Dublin Blues
Hot Rod Lincoln
House of Blue Lights
Happy Trails
Take Me Back to Tulsa

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