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    “Over the years, I’ve had to sell a lot of my records for extra money,” says William Benton, a local musician who performs under the name Cat Casual. “The country records weren’t even worth selling. At least, I loved them too much to sell them for what other people thought they were worth.”

    Benton, a brooding multi-instrumentalist rocker, often compared to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, grew up in Oklahoma on a diet of country music (Johnny Rodriguez, Crystal Gayle, Marty Robbins) and 1960s pop (the Four Seasons, the Monkees). As he grew older, he gravitated to artier or harder sounds like Minutemen, Devo and David Bowie.

    He found success in Louisville with the bands Tyrone and Lucky Pineapple, later dividing his time between Louisville and Brooklyn, where he played with Steve Shelley, of Sonic Youth, and Phantom Family Halo, a psychedelic group originally formed in Louisville.

    He returned here about five years ago, got a weekly DJ gig at Left Field Lounge on Bardstown Road, and joined 97.1 WXOX-FM, where he hosts the country music show Red River Rally on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. He also tours in support of his latest record, The Secret Self, and spins country classics at the Merryweather in Schnitzelburg every Sunday.

    Benton usually fills the first hour of his DJ gigs with rare country cuts. In a long list of favorites, he mentions obscurities like Linda Martell, Jerry Jeff Walker and Blaze Foley. His sweet spot is the early-to-mid-’70s — artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck. He also plays staples like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and George Jones and, later into the evening, Alabama, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire. “As the night progresses,” he says, “the palate becomes less sophisticated.”

     

    This originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline “Country Cat.” To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos by Mickie Winters, mickiewinters.com

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