Affable, easygoing, sometimes almost-too-mellow memoir by the noted evangelist of Western swing music and driver of Asleep at the Wheel.
“I guess it was inevitable that I’d wind up a slow-moving hippie,” writes Benson—and not just because he was born on a Friday, and Friday’s child, in the old nursery rhyme, is “loving and giving.” Usually, but not always: “Yes, I was an asshole a lot of the time, and I regret a lot of the toes I stepped on, but there were some things I had to do to make it work,” he writes. The “it” was converting a bunch of dope-smoking college buddies from local heroes in Paw Paw, West Virginia, into world-class champions of country music in the Bob Wills tradition—an unlikely transformation for a nice Jewish boy brought up on the British Invasion. Still, Benson recalls, it wasn’t such an unusual choice after all: he loved country music, and among his jazz-loving, radical, longhair pals, there was plenty of appreciation for the thought of country as the music of the people. Fast-forward out of the West Virginia—and, occasionally, Washington, D.C.—music scene, and Benson has transported his merry band to Texas, where the Wills sound began, and into a (mostly) benevolent dictatorship to get the sound he wants. The usual suspects are there, of course: Willie with his doober, Johnny Paycheck with his growl, Bill Clinton with his—well, his chicken plucking. And the usual tropes are there, for though it ain’t rock ’n’ roll, there was plenty of sex and drugs in Benson’s corner of the country. “I’m not sure anybody is ever in control of their cocaine habit,” he writes with a certain quiet pride, “but I was probably as close as you can get.” Spinning through jazz, blues, country, and rock, giving boosts to the likes of George Strait and Lyle Lovett, the author genially recounts a merry and generally mayhem-free life in music.
A pleasure for fans of Benson and the band.