Star Power
Pat Green, Asleep at the Wheel, Django Walker set to roll into Civic Center next Friday
By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Nov. 17, 2006 - Hopkins County Regional Civic Center has seen more than its fair share of stars over the years.

But they don't usually run around in packs like they will on Friday, Nov. 24. 

That's when nine-time Grammy winner Ray Benson and his band, Asleep at the Wheel, will bring Western swing magic to the Civic Center  as part of a concert bill that includes singer/songwriter Pat Green and Django Walker, Jerry Jeff’s talented son.

People magazine has called Green the “Bruce Springsteen of the Southwest," and the Waco native has gone from a Texas icon to a national star.

In the past year, Green was selected to tour with Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, both of whom were reigning "Entertainer of the Year" artists at the time. Most recently, the show-stealing Green co-billed several dates with the Dave Matthews Band, receiving a special pre-show introduction from Dave Matthews himself. 

Green has appeared on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and has been covered in Esquire, People and USA Today. He's sold out venues from the Houston Astrodome to the Nokia Theatre in New York. Green's ninth album, "Cannonball," hit stores on Aug. 22. The first single from the album, "Feels Just Like it Should," debuted at No. 32, the highest debuting single on the country charts this year. It continued to climb to No. 13.

As the son of Jerry Jeff Walker, Django Walker grew up in a house full of music. He decided to follow in his famous father’s footsteps and has carved a niche for himself in the world of independent Texas music. He has opened for Pat Green and played the Cotton Bowl with the Dixie Chicks. His latest album, "Six Trips Around the World," was released in February.

And then there's Asleep at the Wheel.

From the moment Asleep at the Wheel takes the stage with one of their standards like "Miles and Miles of Texas" until they close the show with a rambunctious rendition of Hot Rod Lincoln, the band delights, entertains, and captivates.

Lately, "The Wheel," as their fans call the group, has added a tribute to the late Cindy Walker.

Walker, who died in March, was the author of many of Bob Wills’ songs, including the 1944 hit, "You’re From Texas." She wrote "Cherokee Maiden" and "Sugar Moon" for Wills. She also wrote tunes for Eddy Arnold, Bing Crosby and Willie Nelson. Ray Benson’s turn on Walker’s mega-hit "You Don’t Know Me" is a showstopper.

Big Ray, standing about 6 feet, 5 inches in his stocking feet, is the band’s heart and soul. It’s no secret why he’s a legend in the world of Western swing — he’s a master of the genre, he surrounds himself with great musicians, and he shares the glory with them. 

There’s a new girl singer with the band, Elizabeth McQueen. The quirky Lisa Loeb look-alike with a bounce in her step and a smile that lights up the stage is being called "a keeper."

Also providing strong backup and an essential dimension to the band is fiddle player Jason Roberts. Roberts might be short in stature, but once he tucks that fiddle under his chin, he seems 10 feet tall.

The Wheel just wrapped up a tour of its new play, “A Ride with Bob,” an intimate look at the life and times of the Bob Wills, the father of Texas swing music. The play, which Benson co-wrote, opened to rave reviews at Fort Worth’s Casa Mañana Theatre and recently made stops in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. 

�We had a big heat wave in San Francisco, but it went very well,� Benson said in a recent telephone interview. �And I think every Texan in D.C. came to see us at the Kennedy Center.�

Benson plans to take the play to Galveston and Amarillo next year.

�It�s an amazing experience,� Benson said. �We just hope to get it before more people.�

The Wheel also has two CDs coming out the week they play the Civic Center.

�We�re releasing �Reinventing the Wheel� and �Santa Loves to Boogie� that week,� Benson stated.

The CDs will be available through the band's website (www.asleepatthewheel.com) and through HEB grocery stores. HEB partnered with the band to produce “A Ride with Bob.” 

Tickets for the all-star event are $22.50 in advance or $27.50 the night of the performance. Doors open at 7 p.m., with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Call the Civic Center at 903-885-8071 for more information.

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