Thursday, November 19, 2015

Comin' Right at Ya

One of the presentations I most looked forward to at the 2015 Texas Book Festival was the one featuring Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel.  Even though Ray and his co-author David Menconi were allotted the very last time slot on the second day of the festival and I still had a three-hour drive ahead of me, I was determined to make that session.  Good decision.

I’ve been a fan of Ray’s music since the early eighties and especially appreciate his efforts to keep Western Swing music alive.  Not only has Asleep at the Wheel recorded Western Swing albums of its own, Ray has produced three very fine Bob Wills tribute albums, and recorded a successful swing-oriented album, “Willie and the Wheel” with the one and only Willie Nelson.  But that’s the public Ray Benson everyone knows.  And I wondered if he would be anything like that public persona when seated on a small stage to discuss his new autobiography, Comin’ Right at Ya?  Well as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Comin’ Right at Ya is the life story of Ray Benson Seifert, one of four children born into a Jewish Philadelphia family, a guy whose inventor father founded the Seifert Machinery Company and whose schoolteacher mother earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  Ray Seifert grew up and became a self-described “Jewish Yankee Hippie” – and then his love of roots music led him to invent the “character” that the world now knows as Ray Benson, Texas country music star.

It took a while for Ray to make his way to Austin, Texas but thanks largely to Willie Nelson’s invitation he finally got here.  And he brought Asleep at the Wheel with him.  And the rest is history.  The Jewish Yankee hippie is now one of the state’s favorite sons, even to having been named “Texan of the Year” in 2011 by the Texas legislature. 

Ray Benson Signing at 2015 Texas Book Festival
A whole lot happened to Ray and the band before he achieved that lofty status, of course, and Ray tells it all - well, most of it because he admits that his publisher lightly censored some of his stories.  But even with the publisher looking over his shoulder, Ray shares stories about Willie, Dolly, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, a lot of other friends he’s made in the business, and a few folks he doesn’t think too highly of.  Ray is as bluntly honest about his business and personal failures as he is about his successes, and his is a career which has seen many of both, including the nine Grammies Ray and the band have earned along the way.


Comin’ Right at Ya is for the fans, especially those who appreciate the heck out of Ray’s music but are only vaguely aware of his roots and how he has so successfully reinvented himself.  He’s Texas’s number one “Jewish Yankee Hippie” now, and the state is proud to claim him as one of its own.


4 comments:

  1. Fan since the first Bob Wills tribute and Ray was the first artist I met on AOL in 1995.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jan, Ray has done more than anyone else for the last 25 years to keep people aware of and enjoying Western Swing. He's earned his place in music history for that alone - and there's a whole lot more icing on the Ray Benson cake...

      Delete
  2. Well, as a fellow Phildelphian, I have to say we travel well. Definitely putting this into the book budget.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that most Texans would be shocked to learn that Ray is from Philly, Kaye. That's part of what makes this books so much fun. I have to say that Ray is one of the nicest celebs/authors I've met in a long time. He actually tried to have a short personal conversation with everyone wanting a book signed last month in Austin. Good guy.

      Delete