Photo by Martha Burns.
I’ve had some decent bookstore-type events over the years reading from this book or that. But every last one on the list just moved down a notch after Sunday afternoon’s Texas Book Festival ‘do with Ray Benson, where he and I talked about “Comin’ Right at Ya” for a pretty solid crowd of close to 200 folks at the State Capitol Auditorium. It really was great, which shouldn’t be surprising given that Ray is a natural born showman who is most comfortable onstage. As was the case with co-writing the book, pretty much all I had to do was keep out of the way, throw in a few straight lines and let Ray be Ray.
Moderator Doug Freeman did a fine job leading the discussion, in which we talked a bit about the mechanics of co-writing a project like this, and I said a few things along the lines of that recent Walter magazine essay. Ray had just rolled back into Austin from an out-of-town gig the night before and brought along an acoustic guitar to play a few songs — starting with the quietly reflective “A Little Piece,” moving on to the wink-and-a-nod humor of “Hot Like That” and closing with “Miles and Miles of Texas” as a rousing audience sing-along.
Photo by Rush Evans.
I spent most of my time onstage listening with everyone else while Ray told a few tales, some tall but pretty much all true. While I had a few quips to add, I was happy to cede the floor to Ray, who was entertaining even when calling me out for a mistake (apparently, a dog from Asleep at the Wheel’s Bay Area period was misidentified — sorry!). I think my most on-point contribution to the discussion came when I told Ray after a hilarious Dolly Parton anecdote, “Dude, you really need to do an audiobook.” I hope that will someday come to pass.
Afterward, we went out to the book-signing tent, where it seemed like everyone who had been in the auditorium wanted a book and both our autographs. We were happy to oblige. Can’t beat a hometown crowd, even if it hasn’t been my hometown for 30 years. But it’s still Ray’s town. Thank you, Austin. I’ll be back in March for South By Southwest, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
Photo by Jan Byrd.
Sunday afternoon will find me anxiously wandering the halls of the State Capitol in Austin, trying to locate the right auditorium (Room E1.004) in time for my 4:15 p.m. appearance with Ray Benson at the Texas Book Festival. Being scheduled into the capitol building represents a nice upgrade from my last TBF go-round, in which I talked about “Losering” with a couple of my fellow music-book authors on the patio of a bar three years ago (an event that actually turned out just fine, despite my apprehensions).
Photo by Martha Burns.
Once Ray and I and moderator Doug Freeman (author of this week’s nice Austin Chronicle review) have assembled and the audience gathered, we’ll chat a bit about the whole book-writing thing in regards to “Comin’ Right at Ya” as well as Asleep at the Wheel’s long-running history. I believe Ray is bringing a guitar, so you can expect him to play at least a song or two. And if the audience has any questions, those will be entertained before Ray and I retire to the book-signing tent around 5:00. Margaritas to follow.
It’s entirely possible that this will basically turn into everyone in the room listening to Ray tell stories. Having spent a lot of time doing that over the past two years, I can just about guarantee that they’ll be worth hearing. It should be fun, and the fact that it’s free makes it low-risk — so come on out if you happen to be in the greater Central Texas vicinity.
Always nice to turn up in the Austin Chronicle — the weekly paper in Ray Benson’s hometown, and a publication I used to write for way back when I was a University of Texas graduate student 30 years ago. This week’s Chronicle has a “Comin’ Right at Ya” review that previews Sunday’s Texas Book Festival appearance, and I sure do appreciate reviewer Doug Freeman (who will also serve as moderator on Sunday) noting that I managed to “keep Benson’s trail of anecdotes on point without sacrificing detail or worthwhile digressions” — not to mention the review’s conclusion, that it’s “one helluva ride worth telling.” I’ll say!
Check that out here. And I hope to see some friendly, familiar faces down there this weekend.