75. Asleep at the Wheel
Ray Benson has been preaching the gospel of Western swing for more than 45 years, and given his imposing 6-foot 7-inch frame, his message has been hard to ignore. Of course, there's also the music delivered by his consistently stellar band Asleep at the Wheel, a group of rotating members that faithfully re-creates one of country's most thrilling subgenres. Benson's admiration for Bob Wills (the Wheel have recorded several tributes to the Western swing legend) helped preserve the form in an era where it might otherwise have been forgotten. Despite only scoring one significant hit in "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read," the Wheel have notched Grammys (including one for 2009's Willie Nelson collab Willie and the Wheel) and played Austin City Limits more than any other artist, a fact helped by being one of country’s great live ensembles. J.G.
Key Tracks: "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read," "Miles and Miles of Texas"