A Ride With Bob is the first-ever play about the life and music of Bob Wills. Written by Ray Benson and Anne Rapp, and performed by twenty-five actors and musicians, with several dozen costume changes on a colorful theatrical set, A Ride With Bob includes the live performance of 15 of Wills’ most well-known songs in a plot that interweaves Ray Benson’s present day with various stages in Wills’ storied career.

Synopsis of the Story
Ray Benson’s 36-year odyssey leading the band Asleep at the Wheel seems to have lost direction. He briefly met his musical mentor Bob Wills in 1973, but never got to chat; the interstates all look the same, and the bus feels like a dead end, especially when the new driver begins to rant about actually being the Ghost of Bob Wills. Ray isn’t convinced, so “Bob” takes him on a series of song-filled remembrances of his illustrious and sometimes outrageous life…first as a boy in the cotton fields, a young talent blackballed from radio by W.L. O’Daniel, his first recording session, and his struggles with fame in Hollywood and his many failed marriages. His music and his life story become one in songs such as “San Antonio Rose,” “Faded Love,” and “Roly Poly.” The bus trip concludes in Tulsa with Ray having finally gotten to know his hero, awestruck and re-energized to keep the band and Wills’ music on the road forever.

- March 2005 – Premiere

- Debuts at the 300-seat State Theatre in Austin, for six sold-
out performances, to coincide with celebrations of Wills’ 100th

- Fall 2005 – Tours for the first time regionally

- Kerrville; Austin, & Midland, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma

- Sell-outs, great reviews and standing ovations in the first act.

- Summer 2006 – Larger venue tour regularly draws 3000+

- San Antonio, Fort Worth, San Francisco & Washington DC

- Tour wraps at Kennedy Center with sold out performance
attended by President and Mrs. Bush


Ray Benson (Himself)
, hailed by many to be the post-modern king of western swing, is the 9-time Grammy™ winning leader of Asleep at the Wheel. Having won Grammys™ in each of the last four decades over the band's thirty-plus years in the music business, the Wheel has become a Texas institution for the vigor they inject into their music, and especially the legacy of Bob Wills. To that end, Benson has been a founding member of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, a board member of KLRU/Austin City Limits and the National Academy of Country Music. His radio and TV ads include Applebee’s Restaurant, Suzuki Motors, Southwestern Bell Communications, Levi Jeans, Dreyer’s Ice Cream, Delta Airlines, and McDonalds; film credits include “The Horse Whisperer,” “Toy Story,” “Universal Soldier” and “Wild Texas Wind.” Ray owns and operates Bismeaux Studio and Bismeaux Productions, a successful recording studio and production company in Austin, and serves on the Board of Directors of notable Austin institutions such as KLRU (producers of Austin City Limits) and St. David’s Foundation. He is a trusted collaborator with the high tech industry in tackling the challenges and opportunities of digital audio technology. Chipmaker AMD has signed him on as an AMD64™ Premier Artist to assist in building their industry expertise. In recognition of his many achievements, the Texas State Legislature named him the official 2004 Texas State Musician.

Anne Rapp (Writer) was a script supervisor in the film industry for fifteen years and worked on more than 40 feature films, beginning with “Tender Mercies” in 1981 and ending with “That Thing You Do” in 1997. She began writing short stories, which led to a job writing for Robert Altman. He directed two of her screenplays, “Cookie’s Fortune” and “Dr. T and the Women.” Altman also directed a television episode written by Anne for the ABC series “Gun.” The screenplay for “Cookie’s Fortune” earned Anne an Independent Spirit Award nomination in 1999, as well as an Edgar Allen Poe nomination. In 2002 she wrote a television special for CMT, a live Texas music variety show called “Stars Over Texas,” hosted by Ray Benson and featuring Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and Bruce Robison. She has published short stories in several anthologies and has an essay in the recent “Great American Writers Cookbook, Volume II” which accompanies her world famous chili recipe. She is currently adapting a book about American nurses in the Philippines in WWII, and one of her original screenplays, “Double Wide” has recently been optioned by Blue Collar Productions with Anne attached as director. Anne currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she occasionally serves as a visiting professor of screenwriting at the Michener Center for Writers, the graduate writing program at the University of Texas

Jason Roberts (Young Bob Wills) grew up in Lampasas, Texas listening to the Western Swing greats like Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble and Asleep At The Wheel, as well as Texas honky-tonk and traditional country music. He started playing fiddle on stage with live bands at the early age of 13. By 14 he was on the road, playing that fiddle on weekends during the school year and traveling regularly in the summers.  Jason first played with Asleep At The Wheel at the Broken Spoke as a guest when he was 16.  Since that time he has played with folks like Don Walser, Jody Nix and Clay Walker. He's also backed people like Darrell McCall, Johnny Bush and Hank Thompson.  Currently, he's the fiddle player for Asleep At The Wheel. He's been playing with The Wheel since 1996.

Marco Perella (Old Bob Wills)
has appeared on Austin stages as an actor for over 25 years.  He has also appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.  He directed the premiere of Rounding Home at Frontera Fest and has taught film acting for 20 years.  His list of credits includes regional theater productions Side Man, Shear Madness, Jack and Jill, Woolgatherer, Christmas Carol, Three-Penny Opera, Nashville Road, Picasso at Lapin Agile, Tarot for the New Age, and West Side Story.  Perella was an actor/co-writer/co-director of the long-running Texas hit, In the West, which had an Off-Broadway run at the Kennedy Center in 1991.  His list of film and television credits includes Friday Night Lights, The Wendall Baker Story, Life of David Gale, Miss Congeniality, JFK, Varsity Blues, Lone Star, A Perfect World, Tuskegee Airmen, and Walker:  Texas Ranger.  He can also be seen in The King, Richard Linklater’s upcoming 12 year project and A Scanner Darkly, and Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City with Bruce Willis.  He is also the author of Adventures of a No Name Actor.

John Lewis (Production Manager) is proud to be making his debut here at the State Theater.  John was born and raised in Austin. He received his professional training at the Conservatory for Theater Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, working regionally with The Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Arrow Rock's Lyceum Theater, and The New London Playhouse in New London, NH, among others. Later, he worked for many long years in New York, doing theater, TV, and film before returning to Austin to pursue a more leisurely lifestyle. Since then, he enjoyed a year on the road as Asleep at the Wheel's stage manager before settling in as Technical Director for the Texas Spirit Theater in the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Other Austin theater credits include lighting designer for Lips Together, Teeth Apart at Capitol City Playhouse, Technical Director for Orange, and Sound Designer for Spin, both at the Blue Theater. Mr. Lewis would like to dedicate his work on this production to the memory of Harry Philips, a wise and gentle man whose guidance and loving advice was instrumental in making him the man he is today

Robert Tolaro (Production Stage Manager) has toured with the Greater Tuna shows for 16 years.  He has stage managed The Chairs, The Foreigner, A Tuna Christmas, Red, White and Tuna, Greater Tuna and The Fantasticks for the Tuna Corporation.  Also a freelance director, Bob has directed many shows for theatres in Austin and Ohio.   He was a finalist for a directing fellowship from Theatre Communications Group, and won an Emmy Award for his voiced and signed production of Moliere's The Miser for the Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf in Ohio, which aired on national PBS stations.   He recently stage managed Windblown for Kimmie Rhodes and Joe Sears in Conroe, Texas, and will be returning to the tour of Red, White and Tuna in the Spring.

A native of Austin, TX, Christopher McCollum (Set Designer)  returned home in 1993 after more than eight years living in Germany and Switzerland.  He has worked extensively in both America and Europe, including productions for the San Francisco Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Zurich Opera, the Edinburgh Festival, the Lincoln Center Festival, Houston Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Arizona Opera, Utah Opera, The Alley Theatre, and The Manhattan Theater Club. His designs for the opera based on Little Women for Houston Grand Opera, were seen on PBS’ Great Performances. In Austin, he has designed for most major performing groups, including: Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, UT Opera Theatre, Austin Musical Theatre and Zachary Scott Theater, to name a few. He recently designed The Foreigner starring Greater Tuna‘s Joe Sears and Jayston Williams.  Other memorable productions include: Peter Pan, Oklahoma, Oliver, My Fair Lady, Andrea Chenier, Girl of the Golden West, The Consul, Eugene Onegin, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Woman in Black, Full Gallop, The Sisters Rosensweig, Hedda Gabler, and Weldon Rising. His designs have been honored multiple times by the Austin Critic's Table Awards and the B. Iden Payne Awards. Mr. McCollum is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University.

Jane Clarke (Costume Designer) costumer, hat connoisseur, and owner of Amelia's Retro-Vogue & Relics, has been addicted to vintage clothing, and fascinated by the social history they represent, for over 30 years. She is grateful beyond words for the opportunity to help bring the story of Bob Wills and his music to the stage. She would like to thank her husband, Jerry, son, Jake, and most especially, her friend and assistant, Laura Hill.