Tour Diary #1: Asleep At The Wheel Hug The Road With Bob Dylan

Wheel drummer David Sanger reports from behind the scenes as the country-swing band and Dylan tour the West.

[Editor's Note: Folk-rock icon Bob

Dylan has been sweeping through the U.S. this month with country-swing stars Asleep at the Wheel. Joining Dylan are blues guitarist Charlie Sexton; Larry Campbell on mandolin and acoustic, electric, steel and pedal-steel guitar; Tony Garnier on acoustic, electric and standup bass; and drummer David Kemper. In each concert, Dylan trots out new selections from his extensive repertoire, including "Things Have Changed" (

HREF=",_Bob/Things_Have_Changed.ram">RealAudio excerpt) from the "Wonder Boys" soundtrack. Throughout the tour, Asleep at the Wheel drummer David Sanger will be sending SonicNet some of his diary. Here's the first installment.]

Doing a road diary, or any type of diary for that matter, always seems to me an attempt to bore readers to death with scores of details that only matter to the writer. But when I was approached to submit something to SonicNet about the current Bob Dylan tour, it seemed like a diary might actually be of interest to the rabid Dylan fans out there who, without fail, are filling the halls and arenas on this tour. Of course, this is not an account of an "insider close to Bob." Hell, I'm just along for the ride and having a great time!

In a way, these next three months will be the high point of Asleep at the Wheel's 30-year history. Starting with the "Tonight Show" performance with Dwight Yoakam, we will be on tour with Bob Dylan for the better part of a month and then on tour with George Strait for another 10 shows at stadiums across the East Coast.

These tours will put us in front of more people in a shorter amount of time than at any time in the band's history. On top of all this, we have a CD, ironically titled Ride With Bob, that's continuing to sell well every week and a record company that is behind us. Not bad for a 30-year-old band!

We joke on the bus that the Dylan tour gives us "street cred," but I really think it is true. We are reaching a completely different audience than we reach with our Strait shows or with our traditional, bread-and-butter venues. Many of these people will be the older Wheel fans from the '70s, and many will be younger people who have never even heard of the band. When you consider that other openers for Dylan have included Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison, I think we are definitely lucky to be in this position.

Friday, March 9; Bakersfield, Calif.

We've been hanging out for a few days in Bakersfield, killing some time since the "Tonight Show." Cindy [Cashdollar, pedal steel], John Michael [Whitby, keyboards], Jason [Roberts, fiddle] and I headed to Buck Owens' Crystal Palace to see Buck himself play his own club. What a treat, knowing that on Friday we get to see one of country music's greatest and then, the next day, we get to see one of rock's living legends. How am I going to top this? Buck even played my request of "Made in Japan." Yee-haw!

Saturday, March 11; San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The first show of the tour, and we don't really know what to expect. We have done some openers for rock shows before, but never for a legend like this. Ray [Benson, singer/guitarist] is batting around a few ideas of what songs to play and how to open the show and, considering we don't usually play venues this size, certain practical considerations have to be ironed out. Luckily, we have extra crew with us in the form of Paul Rogers, who usually works with George Strait. It seems as if he has no trouble getting things taken care of.

The venue at San Luis Obispo is small. It is a gym where the bleachers come down to the edge of the stage, so there is not a bad seat in the place. There are no chairs on the floor, and by show time, it was "nuts-to-butts" out there. When we cranked up the first song, all of our fears about what to play disappeared. They were cheering us, our songs and our solos. We could do no wrong and started loosening up immediately. It was a great way to begin this tour.

I stayed around to hear Dylan's set and sat on Charlie Sexton's side of the stage. Charlie is a guitar god in Austin and has been since he was 14 years old. I realized that in all the years I've known about him, I've never really had a chance to see him play. He has a comfort, while wearing a guitar, that I've rarely seen. Those of you who see him in this supporting role to Dylan are seeing a real guitar master in a little-seen role, and he pulls it off really well.

Of course, the whole set was great. I haven't seen Dylan's show since about 1990 or so, and the show then was more rocking and certainly not as intimate. I've also come to appreciate Dylan's songs a lot more because of a singer/songwriter in Austin by the name of Jimmy LaFave who can sing Bob's shopping list and make it sound great. So with a new interest in Dylan's music and this new band and approach, I was blown away by how great the set was. A lot of acoustic numbers and no twisted arrangements leaving you wondering what it is you just heard. Just a lot of great Dylan music.