Sep 20, 2023 - Music

Ray Benson hosts "Austin City Limits: Country"

Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson. Photo: Courtesy of Circle Network

Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson won't tell you the biggest moment in "Austin City Limits'" history.

  • "Every moment was big," explained Benson, who recently finished hosting a new series on the Circle Network called "Austin City Limits: Country."

What's happening: The series began airing Sept. 6 and features exclusive performances, including iconic shows with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Turnpike Troubadours, Tammy Wynette, Toby Keith and more legends.

  • Each performance is paired with intimate interviews, and Benson comments on his favorite moments.

What they're saying: In a world of YouTube and streaming, Benson said the show is another chance for younger audiences to rediscover music.

  • In fact, most Americans are listening to older music, according to 2022 data from music analytics firm MRC Data, which found that old songs represent 70% of the U.S. music market.
  • "It's a real paradigm shift in the way Americans access music," Benson tells Axios.
  • "It's nice to see Circle take one corner of 'Austin City Limits' … and showcase it for everybody to see," he added.

Be smart: Benson, who has appeared on "Austin City Limits" 13 times with Asleep at the Wheel, said his favorite performance on the iconic show was with Willie Nelson in 2009 for their Willie and the Wheel episode.

Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson (L) performs with Willie Nelson on "Austin City Limits." Photo: Courtesy of Circle Network
  • "Willie and the Wheel was a very special project, and we went and did the 'Austin City Limits' show," he said, adding that he got to sing "Pancho and Lefty" with Nelson.
  • The pair have been friends for decades. Nelson taped the pilot for "Austin City Limits" in 1976, and the first show of the series featured Benson and Asleep at the Wheel.

What's next: Catch Benson and the rest of the Asleep at the Wheel crew at Austin City Limits Music Festival, where they've performed nearly every year since its inception.


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