Ray Benson, a towering figure in the world of music, was born on March 16, 1951, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From an early age, Ray’s deep-seated love for music was evident, shaping his path from childhood to musical stardom. Standing at an impressive height of 6 feet 7 inches, his physical presence on stage matched his larger-than-life musical talents.
In his teenage years, Ray Benson’s passion for music continued to grow, influenced by a variety of musical styles and artists. It was during this time that he co-founded the iconic Western Swing band, Asleep at the Wheel, in the early 1970’s.
One of Ray Benson’s early influences and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame honoree, Willie Nelson, recognized Ray’s impact on the Texas music scene, stating, “Ray’s journey from a small town in Pennsylvania to the heart of Texas is a testament to his enduring love for music.” George Strait, the King of Country and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame honoree, echoed the sentiment, adding, “Ray’s story is a testament to the enduring power of music and the Lone Star State.”
This deep connection to music led Ray and his band to move to Austin, Texas, in 1974, where they would find their true musical home. Asleep at the Wheel’s unique blend of country, swing, and honky-tonk breathed new life into the Western swing genre, a uniquely American style deeply rooted in the nation’s cultural fabric. Ray Benson’s deep baritone voice, iconic cowboy hat, and charismatic stage presence made him a standout figure in the music world.
Beyond fronting Asleep at the Wheel, Ray ventured into other creative realms such as hosting the popular “The Texas Music Scene” TV show, which showcased the best of Texas music. Starring in multiple Movies like “Wild Texas Wind” with Dolly Parton. Ray also created, produced, and starred in the stage production “A Ride with Bob,” a tribute to Western swing pioneer Bob Wills.
Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel achieved remarkable success in the music industry, securing multiple Grammy Awards and releasing over 30 albums. Their 1973 debut album, “Comin’ Right at Ya” featured their first single “Take Me Back to Tulsa” and played a pivotal role in reintroducing the world to the captivating world of Western swing.
In addition to his musical accomplishments, Ray Benson is known for his advocacy in preserving Texas music heritage. He played a pivotal role in establishing the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and serves on the board for the Texas Dance Hall Preservation, institutions that honor the legends and establishments who have profoundly shaped Texas’ musical history.
Furthermore, Ray Benson has made significant contributions to healthcare for musicians. He co-founded the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), an organization that provides vital healthcare services and insurance to local musicians and serves on the St Davids Foundation Board. His dedication to ensuring the well-being of his fellow musicians has had a lasting impact on the Austin music community and beyond.
In conclusion, Ray Benson’s biography is a testament to his deep connection to music, his remarkable musical contributions, and his unwavering commitment to preserving Texas’ rich musical heritage. As a towering figure in the music world, Ray Benson’s legacy continues to resonate in the hearts of Texans and music enthusiasts. Ray Benson is an artist who embodies the very spirit of Texas and we welcome him into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.