The Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio has announced that musician, producer and composer Ray Benson, the founder and leader of the Western Swing group Asleep at the Wheel, will receive the prestigious Les Paul Award at the 24th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards. Sponsored by the Gibson Foundation, the award will be presented on Friday, October 3 at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis, on the second night of the annual Audio Engineering Society Convention.
Named for the legendary musician, inventor and pioneer of multitrack recording, the Les Paul Award was established in 1991 to honor the lifetime achievements of musical artists and others whose work has exemplified the creative use of recording technology. Benson joins illustrious past honorees Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson and other innovative artists and producers.
”Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel have been delighting audiences since the early '70s with their high-voltage Western Swing repertoire,” says Mix Foundation president Hillel Resner. “But what the average listener doesn't know is that Ray is not only a consummate artist, but has the technical knowledge and expertise of a veteran engineer and producer.”
”The Gibson Foundation is honored to present this year's Les Paul Award to our friend Ray Benson,” said Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar. “Ray is a gifted musician and producer whose contributions to the world of music are unprecedented. We celebrate and applaud him for his years of entertaining legions of fans. It is so fitting to bestow upon him this special award.”
The TEC Awards, founded in 1985, is the world's most prominent forum honoring outstanding achievement in professional audio production and product innovation. The ceremony is expected to draw more than 700 top sound and music professionals from around the world. Funds derived from the banquet and ceremony are donated to organizations working to promote safe listening practices including House Ear Institute's outreach campaign to teenagers and numerous audio education scholarships.
The Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif. The TEC Awards are sponsored by Mix magazine, the professional audio industry's leading international monthly, published by Penton Media.
In addition to the Gibson Foundation, top-tier sponsors include Harman Pro Group, American Music and Sound, Guitar Center Professional, Meyer Sound, RØDE Microphones, Sennheiser Electronics and Universal Audio. For complete list of sponsors, click here.
The 2008 Les Paul Award: Ray Benson
Some 38 years ago, with tongue firmly in cheek, this year’s Les Paul Award winner, Ray Benson, named his irrepressible Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel. No one has ever fallen asleep at an AATW concert, and leader Benson himself has barely had a moment’s rest in that nearly four-decade span. Ray is the ultimate modern multi-hyphenate: bandleader, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, studio owner, engineer, businessman, raconteur, father, real tall guy. The last one came naturally; the rest he’s had to work at, and he’s good at all of them!
Asleep at the Wheel cut its teeth in a little place called Paw Paw, W.Va., inspired by country-rockers like the Flying Burrito Brothers, the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, as well as by Merle Haggard's seminal 1970 album of Bob Wills country-swing, A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World. By 1971, they'd signed with Cody's manager and relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where they quickly became one of the top local club acts on the basis of their eclectic, high-energy shows. The group's debut album came out in 1973, and the following year they relocated to Austin, Texas.
Since then, Ray has become one of Texas' favorite sons. Asleep at the Wheel has been through countless mutations through the years-the most recent count says that some 80 players and singers have passed through Ray's swingin' “school”-but thanks to its leader, the group has always kept that thread of integrity, innovation and authenticity coursing through it like the Colorado River through Austin. Ray and the band have tackled almost every style imaginable-from honky-tonk to Big Band to rockabilly to folk to country to standards-but it's safe to say that no one has kept the flame burning for Western Swing music like Ray has. Along the way, AATW have earned nine Grammy Awards and a slew of other awards in Texas and elsewhere. In 2004 Ray was named the State Musician of Texas-a hell of an honor for a Jewish kid originally from Philadelphia.
In the spirit of Les Paul, Ray has also distinguished himself as a talented producer, studio owner and technical tinkerer. For many years he's owned and operated Bismeaux Studios in Austin, a comfy but state-of-the-art facility with a huge control room (to match its owner), a vintage API console, tons of great outboard gear and the latest digital systems, too. Ray can talk gear specs all day long if you want, and he knows a ton about engineering, too, though he lets his longtime engineer Larry Seyers do a lot of the heavy lifting on the albums he makes. A natural-born leader and collaborator, he's had great success as a producer, working with the likes of Willie Nelson, Suzy Boguss, The Chieftains, Pam Tillis, Trace Adkins and many others. Additionally, he's lent his singing and playing to numerous other artists' projects.
With Ray Benson at the helm, Asleep at the Wheel continues to be a popular recording band and unparalleled live attraction. In the past year alone they released the exceptional Reinventing the Wheel album and a special Christmas treat called Santa Loves to Boogie. So does every person who comes to an Asleep at the Wheel concert! Timeless but still modern, rooted in history but ever-evolving, Ray Benson always delivers the goods-as one critic put it, “rollicking, reeling, good-time swaggering Texas-style” music.”
Senior Editor, Mix