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July 17, 2013

Two legends meet ... if only in song

GREENVILLE — Austin’s Asleep at the Wheel has spent decades carrying on the legacy of legendary Texas swing musician Bob Wills, while Mandy Barnett performed in front of sold-out Nashville crowds as Patsy Cline in “Always... Patsy Cline.”

The two will continue to carry on these legends’ legacies when they perform in the Greenville Municipal Auditorium on Friday as part of the Kenneth Threadgill Concert Series.

Asleep at the Wheel and Barnett have worked together in the past, and the combination seemed appropriate.

“She is a friend of ours, and we’ve always talked about doing this,” Asleep at the Wheel founder and mainstay Ray Benson said. “Asleep at the Wheel has been Bob Wills’ revival band, (Barnett) was the original person for ‘Always... Pastsy Cline” 20 years ago, and Bob Wills’ favorite vocalist was Patsy Cline. So we said, ‘What if Bob Wills and Patsy Cline had been able to work together?’”

Barnett will accompany Asleep on the Wheel as a vocalist as they play favorites from Cline and Wills. According to Benson, Wills’ music is an inspiration because of the wide variety of styles he used.

“You can play fiddle music, big band swing, New Orleans jazz and blues, you can play country music,” Benson said. “[Wills] gives you a wide variety of music to play; that’s pretty cool.”

Asleep at the Wheel’s connection with Wills has included multiple tribute albums and a musical. The band is working on recording a third Wills tribute album with the likes of Willie Nelson, the Blind Boys of Alabama and George Strait that will most likely be released in the middle of next year. Benson recently completed a solo album that will come out this fall.

“There is always something more to do,” Benson said, after more than 40 years in Asleep at the Wheel and nine Grammy awards. “The idea of Asleep at the Wheel was to bring back and interpret older music and add our own little slant to it.”

Dozens of musicians have played with Asleep at the Wheel, a number that Benson plans to continue growing as he brings in “young folks to replace the older ones that retire.” But the Asleep at the Wheel/Barnett combination is a unique treat, one that Benson hopes Greenville residents will enjoy.

“We will only do a couple of these concerts with Barnett, one of the great vocalists of our day,” he said. “The combination is irresistible — we hope folks will come out.”

The concert will also feature special guest Heybale!, with reserved floor level seat tickets on sale $35 to $50. Reserved balcony seats are $30 in advance. Tickets are $5 more purchased on the day of the show and at the door.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.ShowtimeAtTheGMA.com and at the GMA, 2821 Washington Street in Greenville. Those wanting additional information can also call 903-457-2994.

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