ACL announces guest performers for Hall of Fame 2019

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Austin City Limits announces an all-star slate of guest performers for the 2019 ACL Hall of Fame Inductions & Celebration on October 24, 2019. Music greats Jackson Browne, Shemekia Copeland, Jimmie Vaughan, Bruce Hornsby, Sarah Jarosz, Willis Alan Ramsey and blues phenom Christone “Kingfish” Ingram will take part in saluting the newest class of inductees: singer-songwriting legends Shawn Colvin and Lyle Lovett and blues giant Buddy Guy.  Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen takes the reins for the first time as host of the star-studded night filled with performances and collaborations from music’s finest as the three beacons of American music enter the ACL Hall of Fame. “The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is my Academy Awards,” says Robert Earl Keen. “I don’t think there is a higher honor than to be asked to host the ACL Hall of Fame and as a bonus, I don’t have to wear a tux!” More information about additional guest stars and presenters will be announced prior to the event.

The event will be open to the public and tickets are on sale at Sponsor packages are available now at All proceeds benefit KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. The ceremony will be held at ACL’s studio home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Musical highlights and inductions from the celebration will air on PBS as a special Austin City Limits New Year’s broadcast. 

The sixth class of inductees features a diverse group of music legends and collaborators with longtime ties to Austin City Limits: Lyle Lovett has shared a musical kinship with the series, notably appearing on ACL more than any artist with the exception of Willie Nelson. Living legend Buddy Guy has made three classic headlining appearances on ACL, starting in Season 16 in 1991 and returning this year in Season 44. Shawn Colvin debuted on ACL the same season as Buddy Guy in 1991, going on to make two additional standout headlining appearances as well as frequent guest spots.

Shemekia Copeland; photo by Mike White

“Lyle, Shawn and Buddy share not only a long history with ACL, but a musical kinship with each other,” said long-time executive producer Terry Lickona, “so I’m sure we can expect some one-of-a-kind musical collaborations. They are each uniquely talented, and together they represent the legacy that has helped ACL thrive for four and a half decades.”

Established in 2014, the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame honors the legacy of legendary artists and key individuals who have played a vital part in the pioneering music series remarkable 40+ years as a music institution. The inaugural induction ceremony in 2014 honored Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Lloyd Maines, program creator Bill Arhos and Darrell Royal. The second annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony in 2015 honored Asleep at the Wheel, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez and Townes Van Zandt, along with the original crew of the show’s first season in 1974-75. The 2016 Hall of Fame honored Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King, alongside former ACL executive producer Dick Peterson. 2017’s Hall of Fame honored Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and The Neville Brothers, and the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act. Last year’s fifth anniversary class featured the inductions of Ray Charles, Marcia Ball and Los Lobos.

Dr. John R.I.P.

Austin City Limits was disheartened to learn of the death of the legendary Dr. John of a heart attack on June 6, “at the break of day,” according to a statement released by his family. The Night Tripper was 77. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and sister.

The multi-Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer was born Malcolm Rebennack on November 20, 1941 in New Orleans. At 13 he met Big Easy piano great Professor Longhair, a lifelong mentor. By the fifties he was one of the city’s first-call session guitarists, recording many sides for legendary producer Cosimo Matassa. He switched primarily to the piano only after having one of his fretting fingers shot in a bar fight in 1960, and became one of the New Orleans greats at the keyboard.

Following a mid-sixties stint in a Texas prison on drug charges, Rebennack moved to Los Angeles, joining a group of fellow New Orleans expatriates led by producer Harold Batiste and eventually ending up in the world-famous Wrecking Crew. A lifelong student of New Orleans voodoo, Rebennack created the character of Dr. John, combining the nascent psychedelia of the period with stories about the Senegalese prince of the same name, a nineteenth century NOLA spiritual and medicinal healer. Originally developed for his friend Ronnie Barron, the identity passed on to its creator when Barron was contractually obligated elsewhere. Dr. John the Night Tripper released his first album Gris-Gris in 1968, putting his own distinctive spin on New Orleans culture and reintroducing the city’s music and iconography to a new audience. He went even further with 1973’s Gumbo, a collection of Big Easy classics like “Iko Iko” performed in a more traditional (or as traditional as the Night Tripper would ever get) style that really brought the music of his hometown back to the masses.

Dr. John spent the rest of his long career alternating between celebrating his city’s jazz, blues and funk heritage and exploring a tripped-out ether all his own. He scored a top 10 hit with the irresistibly funky “Right Place, Wrong Time,” produced by Big Easy icon Allen Toussaint and performed with Neville Brothers precursors the Meters. He put his piano heroes Professor Longhair and James Booker back in the spotlight with 1981’s remarkable solo piano album Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack. He won the first of his six Grammys in 1989 for “Makin’ Whoopee,” a duet with Rickie Lee Jones from his album In a Sentimental Mood, a collection of pre-rock & roll standards. He won a Best Traditional Blues album Grammy for 1992’s Goin’ Back to New Orleans, a rollicking batch of NOLA standards that he brought to the ACL stage in Season 18. He spent the next quarter of a century going back and forth between tributes to his influences (Duke Ellington on 2000’s Duke Elegant, Johnny Mercer on 2006’s Mercernary, NOLA music godfather Louis Armstrong on 2014’s Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, his final album) and albums that dug back into his Night Tripper roots (1998’s Anutha Zone, 2001’s Creole Moon, 2012’s Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach and another Grammy winner).

Here is Dr. John performing “Goin’ Back to New Orleans,” from his 1993 appearance on Austin City Limits.

Austin City Limits #1803: Dr John – “Going Back to New Orleans” from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.

Rebennack became an activist for New Orleans following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, releasing the EP Sippiana Hericane in 2005 to benefit the New Orleans Musician Clinic and 2008’s groovy, scathing City That Care Forgot, another Grammy winner. He appeared in the Band’s 1978 concert film The Last Waltz and PBS’s 1995 A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan (recorded in ACL’s Studio 6A), contributed to the soundtrack of Disney’s New Orleans-set cartoon musical The Princess & the Frog (itself based loosely on NOLA activist and chef Leah Chase, who died just a few days before John) and served as the inspiration for Dr. Teeth, leader of the Muppets’ house band the Electric Mayhem. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University in 2013, becoming, as some wags noted, Dr. Dr. John. He returned to ACL in 2017 to join fellow NOLA all-stars in a salute to Fats Domino during the induction of N.O. legends the Neville Brothers for the ACL Hall of Fame.  That appearance ultimately became his last performance as he retreated from public life shortly after.

An in-demand collaborator, over the years Dr. John performed with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Van Morrison to Spiritualized. He is as much of an icon in New Orleans music as Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas. The world is a brighter, stranger, groovier place for having him in it.

“As an entire generation of music icons continues to fade away, Dr. John not only embodied but in many ways personified an entire era of New Orleans musical culture,” comments ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It took us almost 20 years to get the good Dr. to the ACL stage in 1993, but he was in rare form and obviously enjoyed himself. It was an honor to have our stage be his last public performance in 2017, honoring the great Fats Domino. You can’t help but smile when you think of Dr. John.”

Here’s the conclusion to Dr. John’s ACL episode, with the Night Tripper boogieing off stage left to the funky strains of “Capucine” as he’s boogied out of this mortal coil. He will be greatly missed.   


Austin City Limits #1803: Dr John – "Capucine" from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.

Taping recap: Mitski

Mitski has undoubtedly carved out her own unique space in modern music – appropriately enough for an artist equally comfortable opening for either the Pixies or Lorde. The Japanese-born/NYC-based singer, songwriter and university-trained composer has her own distinct point of view and a singular performance style that owes as much to theater and dance as rock and pop. With a generous setlist covering her entire career, Mitski and her four-piece band gave us a stand-out show, made all the more special by her announcement on her Twitter feed earlier today that this would be her final tour.

The band took the stage behind a table desk and chair, followed by Mitski herself, holding a mic and standing still at stage right. As she sang “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart,” she did a slow walk from the side of the stage to her desk, taking a seat as the song ended. She sat stock still as the synth pulse of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” kicked off, going into full-on choreography as the song progressed. She went back to the desk for the atmospheric “Old Friend,” climbing atop at the song’s climax. The band cranked up the volume for “Francis Forever” and “Dan the Dancer,” which contrasted nicely with her stoic performance style – at least until the leg kicks began on “Dan.” A plethora of sampled claps heralded the arrival of “Washing Machine Heart,” which garnered immediate cheers and encouraged Mitski to leave the desk. She returned to the prop for the throbbing “I Will,” ending the song standing atop it.

The music became noisier and more insistent for “I Don’t Smoke,” which Mitski performed with her arms as much as her voice. The more straightforward “First Love/Last Spring” earned a more energetic performance from the auteur, as if she was fueled by nervous energy. The dramatic “Geyser” followed, with the table desk taking on a role closer to dance partner than prop. Leaving the table on its end, she stalked the stage for the vibrant, aggressive “Townie,” before straddling the chair like a Bob Fosse character for the danceably poppy “Nobody.” She re-embraced the table for the tightly powerful “Liquid Smooth,” before taking to a microphone stand for the clamorous “A Pearl.” The languid, spacey “Thursday Girl” found her back on the table, as did the heartworn “Lonesome Love.”

After a quick sip of water, she sat on her knees on the table as guitarist Patrick Hyland strummed the chords to “Your Best American Girl,” which moved from meditative pop song to loud rock thumper, complete with whipped hair. The more melancholic “I Bet On Losing Dogs” followed, which also used the soft/loud dynamic to great advantage, as Mitski took over the desk once again. She then turned the desk over and stood behind it for the angry, strident “Drunk Walk Home,” brandishing her mic stand like a soldier practicing with a rifle and crawling on the floor in defiance. She ended the main set with the heartbroken pop anthem “Happy,” after which she left the stage.

It was only to retrieve her guitar, however, as her musicians continued to play. “My band, everyone,” Mitski remarked as they quit the stage, leaving her alone for the stark “A Burning Hill.” She then left the stage herself, leaving her adoring fans to cheer wildly. She returned, of course, as did keyboardist Kyuhyun Marie Kim, launching quietly, almost resignedly into the lovely “Two Slow Dancers.” She then thanked both the audience for supporting her in doing her “favorite thing in the world,” before praising the ACL crew as “the kindest, most accommodating, least pretentious people” with whom she’d ever done a TV gig. Then it was time for the big, show-closing anthem: “Carry Me Out,” a clear crowd favorite and the perfect way to end such a special show. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of our upcoming Season 45 this fall on your local PBS station.

Roky Erickson R.I.P.

We here at Austin City Limits were deeply saddened by the passing of the great Roky Erickson on May 31. He was 71.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Roger Kynard Erickson was the godfather of the Austin music scene. Pre-dating the cosmic country scene of the seventies, his Austin-based group the 13th Floor Elevators – the first band to whom the term “psychedelic” was applied on their 1966 debut The Psychedelic Sounds of – created an explosion heard ‘round the world with “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” an instant rock & roll classic. Originally performed by Erickson’s teenage band the Spades, the song would go on to be a staple in the repertoire of punk, garage rock, metal and psychedelic bands for decades afterward. If he had vanished from the face of the earth following the release of that single, he would still be a legend.

Fortunately for music fans, he didn’t. After three albums with the Elevators – including the psychedelic staple Easter Everywhere – and years of well-documented legal and health troubles (check out the documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me for the full story), Erickson came back strong in the late seventies with a string of singles and gigs, often backed by Austin power trio the Explosives. He enlisted ex-Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook as producer for the overlapping albums Roky Erickson & the Aliens, The Evil One and I Think of Demons. Along with 1986’s harder rocking Don’t Slander Me, the LPs introduced a new batch of classic tracks, from “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” “I Think of Demons” and “If You Have Ghosts,” to “Starry Eyes,” “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” and “Creature With the Atom Brain.” His songs have been covered by Foo Fighters (who recorded “Two Headed Dog” in Studio 6A for ACL’s fortieth anniversary special), ZZ Top, R.E.M., Doug Sahm, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Ghost, the Butthole Surfers and many more. He was the subject of the 1990 tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, which became the model for the tribute LP deluge of the nineties.

Erickson remained active up to his death, releasing new albums All That May Do My Rhyme in 1995 and True Love Cast Out All Evil in 2010, collaborating with psych rockers the Black Angels and Okkervil River, and gigging regularly with a band led by his son Jegar, most recently at SXSW 2019. His visceral songwriting, slashing rhythm guitar and powerhouse vocals set a standard for psychedelic rock & roll that has been often emulated, but never matched. 

“Before there was a Willie, there was Roky,” notes ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Roky Erickson put Austin on the musical map, and arguably created a music genre – or at least a name – that didn’t exist: psychedelic. To say he was a musical genius would be a gross understatement. What’s even more amazing is that despite his tragic personal history and struggles, he created music that inspired and stood the test of time. It was one of our proudest moments to capture the full glory of Roky Erickson on the ACL stage in 2008. Nothing and nobody else can compare.”

Erickson appeared in full force on Austin City Limits in 2008, backed by his old pals the Explosives, as well as members of the Summer Wardrobe and his fellow Texas psych contemporary Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top/The Moving Sidewalks. Here he is with the opening song: “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” of course. We’ve also included the Foo Fighters’ version of “Two Headed Dog.” We will miss him greatly.

Austin City Limits #3312: Roky Erickson – Youre Gonna Miss Me from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.


Leon Redbone RIP

Austin City Limits mourns the passing of enigmatic and eclectic singer and song stylist Leon Redbone. He was 69, though, in typical Redbone fashion, his death announcement gave his age as 127.

Little is known about Redbone’s background, and he liked it that way. (One story goes that his desire for privacy was so intense that he gave legendary music talent scout John Hammond the phone number to a dial-a-joke service instead of his own.) It was eventually revealed that he was born Dickran Gobalian in Cyprus in 1949, emigrating to Canada in the mid-sixties. He first began performing in Toronto in the early 1970s with an unusual repertoire consisting of pre-World War II – sometimes pre-twentieth century – tunes from the vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, blues and jazz traditions. His distinctive mumble-mouthed growl, superb guitar work, Panama hat, trademark bushy mustache and sunglasses caught the attention of Bob Dylan, who recommended him to Rolling Stone in 1974, garnering the singer a full-length feature in the magazine a year before he released an album. He released his debut On the Track in 1975, featuring beloved Warner Bros. cartoon character and kindred spirit Michigan J. Frog on the cover, the first in a string of albums resurrecting American songs long forgotten in the post World War era. “Leon introduced a whole new generation to some great American classics,” notes ACL producer Jeff Peterson. 

Though he never sold huge amounts of records or singles, Redbone became a familiar voice through commercials for Chevrolet, All laundry detergent, Ken-L dog food and, most memorably, Budweiser beer, singing “This Bud’s for you” while relaxing on a surfboard. He also provided the theme songs to television shows including Mr. Belvedere and Harry and the Hendersons. He was a favorite of Johnny Carson, appearing regularly on The Tonight Show, and was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live twice in the show’s first season. He vaulted back into popular culture after duetting with Zooey Deschanel on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the soundtrack to the now-classic Christmas film Elf, also providing the voice for the character Leon the Snowman. He retired in 2015, after which fan Jack White reissued both his debut album and an LP of early recordings on his Third Man imprint.

“He seemed like a novelty act to some, and he loved to play up the mystique, but when you heard him sing and play, you knew Leon was the real deal,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “When I booked him for ACL during my first year as producer, he was part of a ‘package’ tour with Tom Waits, so we were able to tape that legendary show with Tom on the same night. Among his many other contributions, we can thank Leon Redbone for bringing Tom Waits to the ACL stage!”

Redbone appeared on ACL in 1979 in support of his third album Champagne Charlie. Here he is putting his own distinctive spin on Blind Blake’s “Diddy Wa Diddy.”

Austin City Limits #406: Leon Redbone – “Diddy Wa Diddy” from Austin City Limits on Vimeo.