ACL Hall of Fame Special features Willie Nelson, Double Trouble and more

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits celebrates 40 years on television with a grand finale featuring musical highlights and inductions from the first-ever Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation. Hosted by Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, this never-before-broadcast special showcases outstanding performances and collaborations from the ACL Hall of Fame ceremony held April 26, 2014, including Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph and more. The program also honors the inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees, featuring legendary music acts Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and a pair of individuals who played an invaluable role in the genesis of the series: show creator Bill Arhos and Texas Longhorns football head coach and ACL supporter Darrell Royal.

For this extraordinary occasion ACL returns to its original Studio 6A, where the series taped its first episode in 1974—featuring Willie Nelson—to honor the artists and individuals who have inspired the iconic television series throughout its four decade run. The intimate performances include inductee Willie Nelson, joined by Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris for stunning readings of Nelson-penned classics including “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Crazy” and “On the Road Again.” Matthew McConaughey inducts his friend and fellow Texan, saying “There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson.”

photo by Scott Newton

Austin blues-rock giants Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble are honored with a stirring tribute and their signature songs are performed by special guests backed by Double Trouble’s Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Reese Wynans. Guitar ace Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Grammy-winning singer Mike Farris perform a scorching rendition of “The House Is Rockin’,” a song Vaughan made iconic. Blues titan and ACL veteran Buddy Guy says, “I wasn’t here when Willie started, but I came soon after,” then demonstrates his incredible guitar prowess with an electrifying take on “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Steel guitar dynamo Robert Randolph performs a fiery version of “Give Me Back My Wig” joined by Doyle Bramhall II. The special comes to an epic close with an all-star reading of a Lone Star classic as a stellar lineup of guitar slingers blaze through the Stevie Ray Vaughan standard “Texas Flood.”

photo by Scott Newton

Tune in this weekend for this stellar special, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Next week: Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years: a primetime special

photo by Scott Newton

Join us as we celebrate four decades as a music institution with Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years, a primetime special airing Friday, October 3rd, 9-11pm ET on PBS Arts Fall Festival. With guest hosts Jeff Bridges, Sheryl Crow and Matthew McConaughey, the two-hour broadcast features memorable moments from the trailblazing show’s remarkable run, while the brightest stars in the series’ history return to the ACL stage for dream duets and choice collaborations.

An all-star lineup of ACL royalty pays tribute to the show’s enduring legacy with unforgettable music performances. Highlights of the special include the show opener as Bonnie Raitt, Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard, Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. team up for the Sam & Dave classic “Wrap It Up.” Incredible pairings include ACL Hall of Fame legend Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris on the Nelson-penned classic “Crazy” and Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow’s moving take on his signature “Me and Bobby McGee.” The Foo Fighters honor ACL with a wild rendition of Texas cult hero Roky Erickson‘s “Two Headed Dog,” recorded at the show’s original television studio especially for the occasion. Host Jeff Bridges performs the late singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton’s song “What A Little Bit of Love Can Do” as a tribute to the influential Austin musician who inspired Bridges’ Oscar-winning portrayal in Crazy Heart.  Local legends Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen showcase their troubadour roots and significance to the Austin music scene. Breakout artists and ACL alumni Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr. give blistering performances that forecast the future of the series. Blues titan Buddy Guy brings it all home with an electrifying take on his “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”  The special comes to a close with an all-star reading of two Lone Star classics—a stellar lineup of guitar slingers blaze through the Stevie Ray Vaughan standard “Texas Flood” and the biggest names in music trade verses on the Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away,” as ACL embraces its past and hints at what is to come.

photo by Scott Newton

“This is a huge milestone for us,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and this show captures the essence of what Austin City Limits is all about. We set the bar high for this celebration, and we exceeded it! The lineup of talent speaks volumes about the respect that artists have for ACL.”

Artists performing on the special are: Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Mike Farris, Foo Fighters, Grupo Fantasma, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jimmie Vaughan.

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years was taped at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, and the program’s original television studio, Austin PBS station KLRU’s Studio 6A.  Go here for the episode page, and don’t forget to keep up with ACL TV via Facebook, Twitter and our newsletter.

 

ACL’s all-star 40th anniversary

photo by Scott Newton

When you’re celebrating four decades of musical excellence, there’s only one way to do it: with amazing artists, superior songwriters and master musicians. We were lucky to have all of the above join us for ACL Celebrates 40 Years, our all-star tribute co-hosted by Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow, and featuring Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Clark Jr., Jimmie Vaughan, Alabama Shakes, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Doyle Bramhall II, Lloyd Maines and Grupo Fantasma.

Trading guitar licks with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. and joined on vox by Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Bonnie Raitt kicked off the first half of the show with a Grupo Horns-spiked groove through Sam & Dave’s classic “Wrap It Up.” Standard thus set, Raitt reiterated the importance of ACL to artists like herself that resisted easy categorization before launching into Mable John’s classic “Your Good Thing (is About to End),” punctuating the jazzy soul ballad with creamy slide solos. The set moved quickly from one legend to another, as Kris Kristofferson took the stage with co-host Crow for a moving take on his titanic classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” After an elated Crow exited, the Texas songwriting legend growled his virtual theme song, AKA the masterful “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33.”

After Crow having some time behind her guitar, it was time for her fellow host to have a shot, as Jeff Bridges returned to the stage in tribute to his recently deceased friend and Austin favorite Stephen Bruton. The Bruton-penned “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” and “Fallin’ and Flyin’” (the latter from the Crazy Heart soundtrack) sounded great coming from Bridges’ perfectly weathered throat. Following that treat, ACL executive producer Terry Lickona came on to recap the recent ACL Hall of Fame presentation, honoring creator Bill Arhos and pilot star Willie Nelson. The past thus commemorated, it was time to move from veterans to young guns, as Alabama Shakes launched into its old-school soul ballad “Heartbreaker.” The band then gave the audience a thrill with the Memphis-styled “Gimme All Your Love,” a new song as yet unreleased on any Shakes record. Set one closed out with Austin guitar hero Gary Clark Jr., whose blues rocker “Bright Lights” slow-burned its way into our ears on the back of his sizzling thick-toned solos.

One brief intermission in order to reset the stage later, blues and Americana gave way to a different groove, as Austin’s greatest Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma got hips moving and booties shaking. The slinky “Nada” and funky “Mulato” could make a dead man dance. We then shifted from sexy salsa to hard-edged rock, with a special videotaped appearance by the Foo Fighters. The alt.rock superstars blazed through a fierce take on Austin hero Roky Erickson’s raging “Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog),” recorded in the original ACL studio 6A – the public debut of a performance that will appear in the final edit of the special.

“If you want to hear what the blues are like in the 21st century,” proclaimed co-host Crow, “get ready.” That was the signal for Austin blues kingpin Jimmie Vaughan to re-take the stage, joined by his old friend and tonight’s vanguard artist Bonnie Raitt. The pair essayed an old Billy Emerson tune called “The Pleasure’s All Mine,” a classic blues shuffle with their guitars locking horns at the end. Vaughan continued solo in the classic blues bag with Teddy Humphries’ stinging “What Makes You So Tough,” before inviting his former proteges Clark and Doyle Bramhall II up for the latter’s unrecorded blues grinder “Early in the Morning.” Blues has always been important to ACL’s history, and it was nice to have the spotlight shone directly on it.

Following a salute to our other Hall of Fame inductees Darrell K. Royal and Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, co-host Sheryl Crow arrived for her own set. With Bramhall guesting on guitar, she rocked “Can’t Cry Anymore,” one of her earliest hits from her breakthrough Tuesday Night Music Club. She then ceded the mic to Bramhall, singing harmony on his own early rocker, the choogling “I’m Leavin’.” Crow then shared the spotlight with Clark, the pair doing a guitar-and-harmonica run through blues pioneer Elizabeth Cotten’s standard “Freight Train.”

ACL started as a showcase for Texas music, so it was only natural for the penultimate segment to honor that legacy. Seminal Lone Star singer/songwriters Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen took the stage for what Bridges called “the song that pretty well sums up the theme tonight,” the fist-pumping Texas anthem “The Road Goes On Forever,” written by Keen in 1989 and a staple of Ely’s live shows. Ely then left the stage so Keen could perform his cheeky crime tale “I Gotta Go,” before returning for his own original lighter-waver, “All Just to Get to You.” The Texan theme continued, with a special Hall of Fame award presentation to producer/steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, a veteran of both Ely and Keen’s live bands, the house bandleader for the night and quite possibly the musician who’s appeared the most times on the ACL stage.

Though the song claims that “The road goes on forever and the party never ends,” our party did come to an end with a massive gang-twang on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” featuring the entire cast. You can’t have a much better time than with Joe Ely, Jeff Bridges and Sheryl Crow trading verses and Bonnie Raitt, Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. trading solos. It brought a great evening blazing to a close. As the icing on the cake, this landmark performance will find its way to PBS for a two-hour prime time special as part of of the PBS Fall Arts Festival – look for ACL Celebrates 40 Years on PBS on Oct. 3 at 9pm ET.