Snapped to action by the many requests to fire up the summer concert series again, Jack Galante and family at Galante Vineyards will present nine-time Grammy-winning Texas swing group Asleep at the Wheel, with local blues fusion favorites Red Beans & Rice opening, at their beautiful Cachagua vineyard venue Saturday afternoon.
The Austin-based band has played the gorgeous Carmel Valley winery in the past during a 10-year run of popular concerts that included appearances by Jerry Jeff Walker, Aaron Neville, Pablo Cruise, Eddie Money and The Iguanas, to name a few.
"Our property has beautiful, big wide-open spaces," Jack Galante said in a phone interview held between his many duties working the ranch/vineyard his parents bought in 1969. "We've had up to 1,500 people here for a concert. People keep asking us to do this again because they have such a wonderful time out here.
"We hold it in the daytime when it's nice and warm with the sun. I put a stage out on a grassy field below the winery in 1996. The table seats are near the stage, and people can bring lawn chairs or just wander around. There are no restrictions where it could be, under the trees or out on the lawn. The tables have umbrellas. We've got reasonably priced food, wine, soda and water, so everyone can enjoy a nice, long afternoon, 2 to 6 p.m., filled with fun and music. It's a really pleasurable way to spend a Saturday. Although some people think Cachagua is so far away, it's really only half an hour from Carmel.
Galante's family has a long, illustrious history in this area. His great-grandfather J.F. Devendorf founded the town of Carmel and later built the Pine Inn and the Highlands Inn.
The family bought the ranch and worked its cattle operation, continuing to do so today, although in 1983 they began growing premium grapes there, specializing in cabernet sauvignon.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Galante commuted to the ranch, where he built the winery in 1994. Only last year were he and his own family able to move to the ranch full time, and in a way this year's concert is a kind of home-warming event for them, as well as a celebration of his son John's birthday.
"It's time to kick up some dirt," he said. "There's nobody here but us chickens and we want to share an afternoon with our friends and the community in general. Anyone who has come to the shows will tell you what a great time it is to come to a concert here."
In the beginning, the shows were also benefits for local beneficiaries such as the Cachagua Community Center, the Kinship Center and the Boys & Girls Club.
But Galante began to see he was spending more time organizing the yearly event than he was working on the wine business.
When the economy dipped after Sept. 11, 2001, he carried on for a few years, but by 2006 felt his time was better spent focusing on the wines.
Hopefully there will be enough support from the community to keep this kind of thing going because Galante is game; he just doesn't want to lose too much money in the process.
Asleep at the Wheel is a part of American music history, with 42 years under its belt and a style of music drawn as much from Bob Wills as Count Basie.
Originating out of Paw Paw, W.Va., in 1970, Asleep at the Wheel co-founder Ray Benson explained how Commander Cody invited him and the group to move out to the West Coast, which landed them in East Oakland and into a scene that inspired them to play a wider palette of music beyond the initial Western swing they all loved.
"We lived in Oakland, and played from Carmel up to Sacramento," he said. "It was just past the initial psychedelic era, and we'd do concerts with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Commander Cody, Clover (Huey Lewis), and the Doobie Brothers. We'd play the same joints with Tower of Power, Old and in the Way, and New Riders of the Purple Sage. The scene was changing by the time we arrived."
Although they hung out in the alternative scene that had blossomed on the West Coast, Benson said the band had the goal to make it on the country music charts. So they packed it up, this time the invite coming from Willie Nelson to move to Austin, Texas, where the band has been based since 1974.
They ventured to Nashville, making waves in the conservative scene there, but surprisingly scored a Top 10 hit record in 1975; the single "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read" peaked at No. 10. The band has released 30 or so albums over the years, both studio and live recordings.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Bob Wills' birth in 2005, a screenwriter friend of Benson's suggested they work on a theater production about the great western swing artist's story.
"A Ride With Bob" premiered in the spring of 2005 in Austin. In February 2009 Benson collaborated with Nelson to release "Willie and the Wheel," which received a Grammy nomination in 2010. Currently, the seven-member band continues to tour, logging at least 130 dates a year.
"That's the main thing," Benson said. "We just got back from Europe with Reba McIntire. We'll go back on our own. We're also working on a documentary film. It's more than half done; it should be out next year. We expect it to be a 40-minute doc/biop titled 'Asleep at the Wheel Then and Now.' There's lots of archival film. We plan to tour it as part of our program, to show the film and then play for an hour and a half. 'A Ride With Bob' theater production has been going for eight years now. So all of that keeps me pretty busy."
Beth Peerless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!
·What: Asleep at the Wheel and Red Beans & Rice in concert
·Where: Galante Vineyards, 18181 Cachagua Road, Carmel Valley
·When: 2-6 p.m. Saturday, July 21
·Tickets: $55 lawn seating, $75 reserved table seats, whole table reservations available at 10 percent off, available at www.GalanteVineyards.com; also at tasting rooms in Carmel and Carmel Valley; no pets, outside food or drinks
·Information: Lisa Winfield at Lisa@DawnsDreamWinery.com or 624-3800