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Published: 2009/02/03
by Brian Robbins

Willie and the Wheel – Willie and the Wheel


Git on aboard here, buddy! Yeah; throw that knapsack back there plenty of room.

How long you been hitchhikin’ in this weather? Jeezus! It’s a wonder you still got all yer fingers! Well, settle in the heater’s workin’ and we got a tank full of gas this ol’ bus is rollin’, buddy.

Yeah, you don’t see many of these it’s a 1958 Silver Eagle lotta the bands used em to tour in back in the day. Rides like a dream, don’t it? Mmm yer right the CD player ain’t standard equipment for something this vintage. I, uh well we’ll talk about that

Who’s that playin’? Well, now, why don’t you take a guess? Yeah you got it: western swing, all right. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys? Nope; keep listenin’ that’s right! That’s ol’ Willie singin’! Yep, Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel. Willie And The Wheel they’re callin’ it makes sense, don’t it?

See, the way I hear it, Jerry Wexler – you know who he was, right? God rest his soul, that’s the man that dang near invented rhythm and blues! Ray Charles, Aretha, Wilson Pickett worked with all of em. But he had this soft spot for those ol’ western swing bands like Bob and the Playboys loved that stuff. I guess Jerry and Willie talked about doin’ a swing album years ago, but it just didn’t happen. And then now listen and tell me this wasn’t one of them things that was just meant to happen a few years before he passed away, Jerry Wexler gives his collection of ol’ western swing albums to get this RAY FRIGGIN’ BENSON! That’s right, little buddy: you got it Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel the kings of western swing these days. So, anyways, Ray’s pawin’ through these albums and he keeps seein’ the initials “WN” next to a bunch of the song titles. And what do ya suppose “WN” stood for? Bingo! Willie Nelson! Yeah those were all songs Willie’d wanted to do years before! Do I need to say more? Ol’ Jerry got em all together and well, just listen.

Ain’t it great? “Hesitation Blues” like you young pups never heard it: lonesome highway pedal steel weavin’ round horns and fiddle and ol’ Ray Benson’s lectric guitar. Look at you grinnin’ gotcha! Or how about when they get a little bluesy on “Fan It” or raunchy-without-you-even-knowin’-it on “Bring It On Down To My House”? Heck, that’s one Pig Pen shoulda sung with the Dead in the old days! The whole album just picks you up and swings you round even when they haul the throttle back on the ol’ chestnut “I’m Sittin’ On Top Of The World”. You can’t help but do a little head bop and grin all the while Willie’s singing bout what an ol’ tomcat he is. Or “Corrine Corrina” as good as the vocals are, you’re waitin’ for the next break to see who takes it steel, fiddle, piano the whole band is just locked in on that groove. Yass, yass

So, it’s like this, little buddy: when this music’s playin’, I just get all caught up in it can’t help but feel good, ya know? It’s like I know it’s a CD, but throw a few vinyl pops and crackles on that sucker, and you’d swear it was some long-lost album from the good ol’ days. You just start grinnin’ and and well, here I am, drivin’ this bus, right? I mean, I got a vague memory of bein’ outside Bangor, Maine in a snowstorm headed out on Route 9 in my ol Subaru station wagon tryin’ to get this CD unwrapped and stick it in the player. I think it was me, anyway but then the music got playin’ and I started to forget about the snow and just felt good, ya know? And things got kinda hazy – in a good way and then it’s like I’ve always been drivin’ this bus and everything’s cool and the tank’s always full and well I kinda like this.

Don’t mean to spook ya, but it’s that kind of an album I got lost and found at the same time, if ya know what I mean.

So, yer welcome to bail out any time you like, bud. In the meantime, though, we’re just gonna crank up ol’ Willie and the Wheel, let er roll, and smile, smile, smile.

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