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.