RiverRoots Music & Folk Art Festival

‘Asleep at the Wheel’ to headline
2016 RiverRoots Festival

The western swing band hails from Austin, Texas

Thursday, May 19 - River Stage
• 7 p.m.: Free “Warm-Up” show featuring Rusty Bladen, followed by Appalatin.

Friday, May 20 - Main Stage
• 5 p.m.: Gates and Folk Art Village open
• 5:30 p.m.: Darlingside
• 7:30 p.m.: Lindi Ortega 
• 9:30 p.m.: Brothers Comatose

River Stage
• 6:45 p.m.: Maiden Radio
• 8:45 p.m.: Sarah Jarosz

Saturday, May 21 - Main Stage
• 11 a.m.: Gates and Folk Art Village open
• 1 p.m.: Bridge 19
• 2:30 p.m.: Blair Crimmins and the Hookers
• 4 p.m.: Billy Strings and Band
• 5:30 p.m.: Parker Millsap
• 7:30 p.m.: Donna the Buffalo
• 9:30 p.m.: Asleep at the Wheel

River Stage
• 1:45 p.m.: Jake Brook
• 3:15 p.m.: Jayme Stone Lomax Project
• 4:45 p.m.: Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra
• 6:45 p.m.: Jon Stickley Trio

•  Note: Also featuring a Folk Jammers Tent, Folk Art Village, Craft Beer Tent and Craft Beer Making Contest.

• Admission Wristbands: $35 for either or both days. Children 12-under free. Wristbands available online at www.RiverRoots.org or by calling (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956. Tickets also available at several Madison business locations.

(May 2016) – With more than 20 studio albums to their credit, western swing band Asleep at the Wheel keeps churning out the hits. Formed more than 40 years ago in Paw Paw, W. Va., the band is still true to its roots, even though band members have come and gone over the years.
The award-winning band has been tapped to serve as the Saturday night headliner act to close out the 11th annual RiverRoots Music and Folk Art Festival, May 20-21 on the riverfront in Madison, Ind. The band is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Other bands playing that evening include Billy Strings and Band, Parker Millsap and Donna the Buffalo.
Asleep at the Wheel has been presented numerous awards throughout its musical career.
“They play great dance music,” said RiverRoots festival coordinator Greg Ziesemer.
For this year’s RiverRoots lineup, “We have great talent from top to bottom. It is stylistically diverse, and we have a strong female presence,” as evidenced by Maiden Radio and Bridge 19.
A RiverRoots Kick-Off Party was held on April 9 at Red Bicycle Hall in Madison featuring the band, Parsonfield. The band is a five-piece Americana band from Connecticut that infuses a rowdy rock-n’-roll spirit into its bluegrass and folk influences. This show was “very well attended,” said Ziesemer. 

Photo courtesy of Heather Hambor

The Jon Stickley Trio features Stickley (center) with bandmates Lyndsay Pruett and Patrick Armitage.

A free RiverRoots “Warm-Up Show” is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the River Stage on the Madison riverfront and featuring local performer Rusty Bladen, followed by the Louisville-based band, Appalatin. Bladen has nine albums under his belt and plays in a foot-stomping, Americana rock-n’-roll style reminiscent of Tom Petty, Van Morrison and John Mellencamp, said RiverRoots marketing director Charlie Rohlfing. Bladen also performs original music.
Appalatin is a folk and Latin, all acoustic band. They will perform at 8 p.m. and are “well loved by Madison,” Rohlfing said. Appalatin has performed at RiverRoots in the past.
“We want to bring people to the venue,” Rohlfing said. “We want them to get down there and be excited. They can also buy tickets that night. This is not unlike what (Madison) Regatta does” before the big race.
Having this show at the River Stage “is something new for us.” Last year, it was held at the Boneyard Grill (on the Madison hilltop). Rohlfing sees it as a great way to tell people who don’t know what RiverRoots is, what the festival is really all about.
Rohlfing described the 2016 RiverRoots lineup as “classic RiverRoots. There are some high energy bands that will have everybody dancing, and then there are some that perform great listening music.”

Photo courtesy of Laura E. Partain

The Parker Millsap Band features (from left) Michael Rose, Millsap and Daniel Foulks.

He said the River Stage is growing. At first it was more of a fill-in stage, but now it is becoming “just as packed as the Main Stage.”
The crowd can get intimate and up close with performers, such as Sarah Jarosz. “It puts the people right up there with her.”
Ziesemer said there was a good turnout for last year’s festival. The River Stage is “larger this year and completely tented. In case of rain, there are plenty of places to get in out of it.”
There are more sponsors for RiverRoots this year than ever before, said Ziesemer. “They are the lifeblood of the festival. We couldn’t put it on if it wasn’t for them. They are invaluable to us as well as the membership of the Ohio River Valley Folk Society.” The non-profit society is the entity behind RiverRoots that helps by soliciting donations, applying for local grants and organizing the highly successful RiverRoots Music Series in the winter months. 
Ziesemer and Rohlfing are counting on Asleep at the Wheel to carry on the tradition of closing out the two-day event with a flourish.

Photo courtesy of Ferrin Schriner, Bismeaux Records

Asleep at the Wheel band members include (from left) Connor Forsyth (piano and vocals), Eddie Rivers (steel guitar and sax), Katie Shore (fiddle and vocals), Ray Benson (lead guitar and vocals), Dave Sanger (drums), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle and mandolin), Jay Reynolds (sax and clarinet) and Dave Miller (bass and vocals).

Currently based in Austin, Texas, the band traces its beginnings to the dream Ray Benson had of one day playing and reviving American roots music. He was joined by Lucky Oceans, Floyd Domino, Leroy Preston, Chris O’Connell and Gene Dobkin.
In 1970, they landed the opening gig for Alice Cooper and Hot Tuna in Washington, D.C. A year later, the band moved to East Oakland, Calif., at the invitation of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.
The fledgling band got its big break when Van Morrison mentioned them in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Record offers started coming their way, and they made a deal with United Artists to release their debut album, “Comin’ Right At Ya,” in 1973.
A year later, the band released their second album, “Asleep at the Wheel.” It contained a cover of Louis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” which was their first single to hit the country charts. In 1975, they released “Texas Gold,” which contained the No. 10 Country hit single “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read.”
The momentum kept on going. They performed for the first time on PBS’s Austin City Limits, where they have since taken the stage a record setting 10 times. In 1976, the band was awarded the Touring Band of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and in 1977 voted Best Country Western Band by Rolling Stone.
They toured with such music legends as Emmylou Harris in Europe, and in 1980 appeared in the movie “Roadie,” along with Meat Loaf, Blondie and Art Carney. By the end of the decade, the band recorded its first live album, “Served Live,” at the Austin Opera House.
The 1980s ushered in change for the band when co-founder Oceans left, followed by O’Connell. Things looked brighter when they released “10,” which won them their second Grammy for Best Country Instrumental. Legendary fiddle player and onetime Texas Playboys member Johnny Gimble contributed to this album. They finished out the decade by releasing “Western Standard Time,” which won them another Grammy for Best Country Instrumental.
Over the years, old members left and new members came aboard. Their roster totals over 80 members who have gone on to perform with artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Lyle Lovett and Ryan Adams.
But Benson has always stayed with the band and has been quoted as saying, “We’re a dance band. That’s what we’re about. And that’s plenty.”
In 1993, the band released an instant hit, “A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.” In 1999, Asleep at the Wheel and DreamWorks released “Ride with Bob,” a second tribute album to Bob Wills. Becoming an instant hit, this album earned them two Grammy wins, one for Best Country Instrumental and one for Best Package Design.
The next decade saw the band busier than ever. They toured with Dylan and George Strait, and were scheduled to perform at the White House on the fateful Sept. 11, 2001.
Accolades poured in for the band. Asleep at the Wheel received six Austin Music Awards for their efforts in 2007, including Band of the Year, Songwriter of the Year (Benson), Country Band of the Year, Record Producer of the Year (Benson), Male Vocals of the Year (Benson), and Acoustic Guitar Player of the Year (McQueen).
Friends suggested to Benson and the band that they do something to mark the 100th anniversary of Bob Wills’ birth (March 6, 1905, in Kosse, Texas).
“Some folks wanted another tribute album,” Benson said. “But we’d already done two. I felt like we’d be cashing in on Bob’s ghost.”
Benson kicked around ideas with writer friend Anne Rapp, and the result was a script for the musical, “A Ride With Bob.” It premiered in the spring of 2005 in Austin to four sold-out shows. It has been called “the most entertaining night in Texas” by Liz Smith, writer for the New York Post.
Benson played himself in the musical. Upon boarding a tour bus for a gig in Tulsa, Okla., Benson realizes the mysterious bus driver is the spirit of Wills. He takes Benson on a musical tour of his life.
Members of The Wheel played the accompanying musicians, with fiddler Jason Roberts as Wills. Actors portrayed various characters from Wills’ life, including his five wives.
In 2007, the Austin Chronicle recognized them for Band of the Year, Best Country Band, and inducted them into their Hall of Fame.

They have won nine Grammy Awards and charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. Benson was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2002.

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