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Asleep At The Wheel on Mountain Stage

Asleep At The Wheel performs during a live taping of <em>Mountain Stage </em>at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Sun., Oct. 24, 2021.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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Asleep At The Wheel performs during a live taping of <em>Mountain Stage </em>at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Sun., Oct. 24, 2021.

In October, having recently marked their 50th anniversary with a new album, Half A Hundred Years, the iconic Texas swing band Asleep At The Wheel stopped by to see their good friends at Mountain Stage — and to celebrate. We did so in a special Mountain Stage roadshow at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Although headquartered in Austin, Texas since 1973, the group formed up in the Appalachian Mountains, over the Potomac River from the Kennedy Center. "They started in Paw Paw, West Virginia if you can believe that," host Kathy Mattea said, introducing two of the band's original members, Ray Benson and LeRoy Preston. "All these decades later, Ray Benson is still the guiding light and grounding force of the band — which has had over 80 members come and go over these years."

Benson took the well-oiled Texas outfit out for a smooth sonic stroll, with bar-room piano, pedal steel guitar, fiddle and saxophone, as they made their way through "Route 66" and into the Half of a Hundred Years' title cut.

Asleep At The Wheel then brought it all home in foot-stomping fashion with two of their biggest swing hits: "House of Blue Lights," written by Don Raye and Freddie Slack in 1946, and "Big Balls in Cowtown," Hoyle Nix's dance song from 1949, which Benson and Asleep At The Wheel cut with George Strait in 1993. Enjoy.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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