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He's still Asleep at the Wheel, and it's a good thing.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

When Ray Benson helped form the Western swing band

Asleep at the Wheel three decades ago, it wasn't just to honor the music of Bob Wills. The idea was to preserve all forms of "forgotten music," a category that Benson says includes Cajun, hillbilly, bluegrass, swing, blues, jump and Western swing.

"I had my hair down to here, wore cowboy hats," Benson said in a 2001 interview with the Dallas Morning News. "For our first gigs, we begged these guys to let us play at a sportsman's club. They said, `OK, you can pass the hat.'

`We made $55, and the guy sold more booze than he ever had. We were on our way."

Benson, now the heir apparent to Wills' legacy, is the only original member remaining in Asleep at the Wheel. He has steered his group through some 80 lineup changes, 20 studio albums and eight Grammy Awards.

A towering figure in the world of country music, the 6 foot-7-inch singer will bring his band to the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 285 E. Broadway, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Formed at a farm in Paw Paw, W.Va., Asleep at the Wheel relocated to its current home of Austin, Texas, in 1974 at the urging of Willie Nelson. Benson met his mentor, Wills, in 1973 shortly before the Western swing king died.

Years later, he honored Wills with "Ride With Bob," an all-star tribute album that featured Dwight Yoakam, the Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Merle Haggard and others.

Some of the band's better-known songs (Benson says there are no hits, just the ones people yell for every night) include "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," "Miles and Miles of Texas," "(Get your Kicks on) Route 66," "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read," "House of Blue Lights" and "Take Me Back to Tulsa." Many of the songs were featured on the group's recent release, "The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel."

Tickets for Sunday's performance are $12.50 to $26.50 (the $32.50 seats are sold out).

Drumattica

Drumattica is the electronic side project of Keith Brown and Brian Lehfeldt (from TV:616) and Robert Wynia (Floater). Jen Folker (Dahlia) also contributes vocals to several tracks.

Dubbed "electro-tribal-rock," the Portland group's seductive sound is slow enough to quiet your head and rhythmic enough to make you dance.

Drumattica's debut CD, "A Part of Something," was released earlier this month on Last Match Records. The group comes to the WOW Hall, 291 W. Eighth Ave., Saturday for a 9 p.m. performance, with Deflower and Eugene's own Avery Bell as the opening acts.

Tickets are $7 at the door.

Swingin' Utters

The Swingin' Utters, a working-class punk band from San Francisco, comes to the WOW Hall on Sunday for a late show.

The Fat Wreck Chords recording artists have played the Vans Warped Tour and toured Europe with Rancid, but they're nothing like the sloppy punk that's being exported from California lately like so much Two Buck Chuck wine.

On the group's latest, "Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass and Bones," vocalist Johnny Bonnel - the band's resident cinderblock warehouse worker - runs his voice like a bricksaw while his bandmates kick up a small dust cloud behind him and then sweep up the mess.

Pistol Grip and Youth Brigade, a not-so-young-anymore Los Angeles punk act, will open the show at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or at the door.

Summer concert watch

Tickets for the 34th annual Oregon Country Fair (July 11-13) will go on sale today.

Some of the highlights of this year's free-for-all in Veneta include the activist singer-songwriter Holly Near, the Australian rock band Fruit, the 45-piece Brazilian marching band Lions of Batucada and Wake the Dead, a bluegrass band that covers Grateful Dead songs.

Advance tickets are $12 for July 11 and 13 and $15 for July 12 through TicketsWest. No tickets will be sold on site.

For more information, go to www.oregoncountryfair.org.

Portland's Oregon Zoo will begin selling tickets for its summer concert series today.

Some of the performers who will take the outdoor stage this season include Roseanne Cash with Iris Dement (July 13), the Afro Celt Sound System (July 18) and Aimee Mann (Aug. 1). Tickets are available through TicketsWest or at www.oregonzoo.org.

CAPTION(S):

The Swingin' Utters will waltz into the WOW Hall for a late show on Sunday night.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 16, 2003
Words:741
Previous Article:Heller's `Homegoing' show.
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