COVID-19 Watch

Austin country music legend tests positive for novel coronavirus

Austin country music legend tests positive for novel coronavirus

Texas Medal of Arts Awards 2015 Ray Benson
Ray Benson has tested positive for COVID-19. Photo by Shelley Neuman

Austin country music legend Ray Benson revealed March 31 that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a Facebook post, Benson — who celebrated his 69th birthday on March 16 — says he’d been feeling tired for about 10 days. Benson sought a COVID-19 test March 21, but no tests were available, he says. On March 30, he again sought a test and this time was able to get one. He was notified the morning of March 31 that his test had come back positive.

Benson, one of the most prominent musicians in Austin, is the frontman for the Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. He’s also released several solo albums. Benson has earned nine Grammy awards and 30 Grammy nominations.

Benson says he feels tired and has a headache, but isn’t experiencing two other COVID-19 symptoms — a fever and a cough. The musician says he had mostly been alone recently, had worn a mask and had been washing his hands and using hand sanitizer, but still wound up being infected with the virus.

He urged his Facebook followers to take the current coronavirus seriously. “Do not listen to right wing BS!” Benson wrote.

On March 19, Benson hosted the livestreamed Luck Reunion festival from Austin. Performers included Willie Nelson and sons Lukas and Micah Nelson; Neil Young; Paul Simon; and Edie Brickell. One of the originally scheduled acts was country singer-songwriter John Prine, whose wife revealed he is critically ill with COVID-19.

The country music industry is still reeling from the March 29 death of singer Joe Diffie due to complications from COVID-19.