Willie Nelson and friends at Ray Benson Birthday Bash to benefit HAAM (5/16/2020)

AUSTIN, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 22: Ray Benson (L) and Willie Nelson perform in concert during the “Texas Strong: Hurricane Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” benefit at The Frank Erwin Center on September 22, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Photo: Gary Miller

by: John Freeman

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, Ray Benson’s long-running Birthday Bash in Austin has been turned into a virtual concert for its 2020 edition. Set for Saturday, May 16th, at 8 p.m. CT, the event will, as usual, benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and is led by performances by Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, and a top-notch group of country and roots artists.

Additional performers on the bill include Kat Edmonson, Randy Rogers, David Beck’s Tejano Weekend, Tami Neilson, Seth James, Randy Houser, Buddy Miller, Wade Bowen, Micky and Cody Braun, Brennen Leigh, and Raul Malo. A graphic announcing the event also has a few names blurred out, to be revealed at a later date. Performances will be broadcast on Asleep at the Wheel’s Youtube and Facebook accounts, as well as on Health Alliance for Austin Musician’s Facebook.

“We had some unfinished business from the SXSW cancellation — we didn’t get to do my annual birthday party fundraiser for HAAM,” Benson writes in an email. “I decided to start texting and emailing my friends about doing a song and the great folks at Central Market/HEB here in Texas gave us the support to do this fundraiser virtually. We want to make sure that HAAM have the funds they need so that our Austin musicians have the health insurance and care they need and deserve, especially during these unprecedented times.”

Hosting the Birthday Bash is a welcome positive sign for Benson, who went public with his COVID-19 diagnosis in late March while he was resting at home and experiencing bouts of dizziness and nausea. His infection never progressed beyond the mild stage, and by April 7th he posted a video to Facebook announcing that he’d made a full recovery.

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