5th annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony airs on New Year’s Eve

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Austin City Limits rings in the new year with an annual tradition, highlights from the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Inductions & Celebration, hosted by Chris Isaak. This fifth annual all-star celebration features music luminaries and more sharing the stage for one epic night to perform in honor of the newest class of inductees: Ray Charles, Marcia Ball and Los Lobos. The special hour, taped October 25, 2018 at ACL’s studio home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater, in Austin, Texas, honors the musicians who have played an instrumental role in the evolution of the iconic series. The broadcast airs Monday, December 31 at 10pm C/11pm E on PBS check local listings for times.  

Master of ceremonies Chris Isaak opens the special noting that Austin City Limits, now in its 44th season, is the longest-running television music program in history, outlasting American Bandstand, Soul Train and—even—Hullabaloo. Isaak introduces honoree Marcia Ball, the Texas-born pioneering blues pianist who debuted on ACL’s first season in 1976, saying “when she sings the blues she makes you dance.” Inducted by her longtime friend and collaborator, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas, Ball accepts the honor saying of ACL “I was lucky enough to get here first, stay longer, go farther and have more fun than I ever, ever imagined possible.” An all-female line-up of blues all-stars pays tribute to her 50-year strong career in a sparkling three-song salute with Ball herself on piano, joined by Thomas and powerhouse vocalists Tracy Nelson, Lou Ann Barton, Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, celebrating a shared lifetime of friendship and music.

The late Ray Charles made two seminal ACL appearances in the 1980s and is honored following an induction by John Burk, president of Concord Records and producer of the music titan’s final studio album in 2004. Norah Jones salutes the Genius with a sterling rendition of “What Would I Do Without You,” saying “this is one of my favorite Ray Charles songs.” Blues great Ruthie Foster brings the house down with a powerhouse reading of Brother Ray’s signature “Georgia on My Mind” and blues-rock star Gary Clark Jr. puts down his guitar for the occasion and steps up to the mic to pay vocal tribute, delivering a radiant “Nighttime Is the Right Time” while vocalists Ruthie Foster, Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland do The Raelettes proud with show-stopping backing chorus.

photo by Scott Newton

Acclaimed filmmaker Robert Rodriguez inducts his longtime compadres Los Lobos into the ACL Hall of Fame calling the East L.A. band “Endlessly inventive, unbelievably groundbreaking, masterful with all kinds of instruments, peerless musicians, and just truly great people.” Los Lobos’ musical kinship with ACL includes six appearances on the series, and they take the stage to perform a trio of back-to-back classics from their forty year-plus career. Joined by director Rodriguez on guitar, steel guitar ace Robert Randolph, Boz Scaggs and guitarist Adrian Quesada, the brothers in arms dazzle with a jubilant eight guitar heartbeat, and the celebration of music comes to an epic close, ushering in the New Year with a Feliz Año Nuevo! and a buoyant “La Bamba,” the 1987 classic.

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year’s Special setlist:

I WANT TO DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU – Marcia Ball with Tracy Nelson, Irma Thomas
FOOL IN LOVE – Marcia Ball with Lou Ann Barton, Tracy Nelson, Irma Thomas, Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King
SHINE BRIGHT – Marcia Ball with Tracy Nelson, Carolyn Wonderland, Irma Thomas, Shelley King  
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU – Norah Jones
GEORGIA ON MY MIND – Ruthie Foster
NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME – Gary Clark Jr. with Ruthie Foster, Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King
DON’T WORRY BABY – Los Lobos with Robert Randolph
LA PISTOLA Y EL CORAZON – Los Lobos
ALL-STAR FINALE: LA BAMBA  – Los Lobos with Robert Rodriguez, Boz Scaggs, Robert Randolph, Adrian Quesada, Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson, Ruthie Foster, Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King & Chris Isaak

The 5th Anniversary Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Inductions and Celebration is presented by NetApp and is sponsored in part by American Airlines, AXS, Brown Distributing, Cirrus Logic, Cousins Properties Incorporated, Dell, Keller Williams, Stratus Properties and Texas Monthly.  

ACL Hall of Fame inducts Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and the Neville Brothers, with a special tribute to Fats Domino

photo by Gary Miller

Last night three American musical innovators were inducted into the fourth annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, New Orleans funk ‘n’ soul collective the

Neville Brothers and late rock & roll legend Roy Orbison. The evening featured one-of-a-kind music performances and tributes from Elvis Costello, Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, Ry Cooder, Dr. John, the Mavericks’ Raul Malo, Trombone Shorty, the Nevilles Band and host Chris Isaak.

Austin’s renegade brass ensemble the Minor Mishap Marching Band led the audience to their seats with a second line, setting the scene for a party. After opening remarks from KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, Chris Isaak took the stage to welcome the crowd and introduce the first tribute. “He was a baritone, tenor and angel,” said Isaak about the late, great Roy Orbison before inducting his hero. Orbison’s three sons Wesley, Roy, Jr. and Alex and granddaughter Emily and grandson Roy III accepted the award, noting that this ceremony, including Cashes, Nevilles and Orbisons, was a family affair. Then, of course, came the music: the Mavericks’ Raul Malo belted “Crying,” Brandi Carlile nailed “It’s Over” and Isaak crooned “Only the Lonely” as if it was written for him. Carlile returned, and she and Isaak harmonized divinely on “Dream Baby,” one of Orbison’s friskier tunes. There was only one way the Orbison tribute could end, as Malo joined Isaak and Carlile for a joyful “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

After Isaak introduced honoree Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello inducted his friend, noting the power and skill in her voice and words. Cash accepted her award with humility, explaining how ACL helped her feel part of a music community when she was starting out, making her ACL debut in 1983 at age 28.  Costello returned, along with Cash’s husband and creative collaborator, guitarist and producer John Leventhal, for the stirring affirmation “April 5th,” a song co-written by Cash, Leventhal, Costello and Kris Kristofferson. Spiritual descendant Neko Case took the stage next, for a transcendent version of the aching and defiant “What We Really Want is Love.” Cash herself re-entered with her friend (and guitarist extraordinaire) Ry Cooder for the sparse, strong “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – a song from Cash’s 2015 triple-Grammy-winning album The River & the Thread and proof that she’s as brilliant now as she’s always been. Costello and Case came back for “Seven Year Ache,” Costello alternating chorus vocals and Case and Cash sharing harmonies like they shared an episode back in 2003.

House bandleader & ACL Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Maines introduced the ace house band including guitarist David Grissom, bassist Bill Whitbeck, drummer Tom Van Schaik and keyboardist/mandolinist Chris Gage. Then it was on to intermission, as Minor Mishap played, the audience danced and the ACL crew reset the stage for the grand finale.

The second half of the show brought the funk, with a celebration of New Orleans music. Given that the sad news of the passing of rock & roll pioneer Fats Domino broke earlier in the day, ACL elected to open with a video of the New Orleans icon singing “Blueberry Hill,” taken from his classic 1987 ACL episode. The first induction of the second half honored a non-performer – the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. The milestone signing helped pave the way for PBS.  Johnson’s granddaughter Catherine Robb and Amy Barbee, chairperson of the LBJ Foundation, accepted the award.

Isaak returned to the stage to introduce the first family of New Orleans music: the Neville Brothers. New Orleans sensation Trombone Shorty, a kindred musical hybridist, inducted the family with colorful stories about the Nevilles with whom he lived and toured as a child. While the brothers couldn’t be there, Aaron Neville’s son Ivan, Art’s son Ian and Charles’ son Khalif accepted on their behalf before taking their places behind their instruments (keyboards, guitar and more keys, respectively). Ivan introduced Dr. John and Elvis Costello, who came up to help with a rollicking take on “Ain’t That a Shame,” in tribute to its author Fats Domino.

Backed by Shorty, Ian, the Grooveline Horns, Ivan’s Dumpstaphunk bandmate Nick Daniels and longtime members of the Nevilles’ band Brian Stoltz, Tony Hall and Willie Green, Ivan asked the audience, “Are you ready to get funky?” Then it was into “Fire & Brimstone,” one of the Nevilles’ greatest tunes, sung by Hall. The group paid tribute to the Nevilles’ predecessor act the Wild Tchoupitoulas with that band’s call to arms “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront.” Things got even funkier for “Brother Jake,” a gem from the band’s late 80s’ sleeper Brother’s Keeper that really got the crowd going. Khalif then joined Ivan on keyboards for “Healing Chant,” a Grammy-winning instrumental from the band’s seminal Yellow Moon that featured Shorty on a lyrical trombone solo. That special breed of New Orleans funk burned brightly on “Fire On the Bayou,” one of the Nevilles’ signature tunes, earning a standing ovation. The Nevilles mini-set came to a close with the exultant dance party of “Shake Your Tambourine.”

But the music wasn’t over yet. Ivan brought Dr. John back to the stage for “Big Chief,” the Earl King-penned/Professor Longhair-popularized shout that has been in the repertoire of nearly every New Orleans and N.O.-inspired dance band for five decades. Elvis Costello rejoined Shorty, the Night Tripper and the Nevilles for a distinctly New Orleans groove through the traditional standard “Down By the Riverside,” which ran directly into its musical cousin “Amen.” That song brought Isaak, Carlile and Malo to the stage as well, and the audience was on their feet, ready to join in Ivan’s call-and-response. As the song reached its climax, confetti burst and the musicians rang in the Austin new year a couple of months early. The roof was raised, and the 2017 HOF celebration came to a close. Viewers everywhere will get to join this party when it airs as a special broadcast on New Year’s Eve on your local PBS station.

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame 2016 induction ceremony a huge success

photo by Gary Miller

Last night we were thrilled to induct three giants of American music into the third annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson. The evening featured one-of- a-kind music performances and tributes from Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr., Taj Mahal, B.B. King’s Blues Band and Eve Monsees. 

Bill Stotesbery, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS CEO and Terry Lickona, Executive Producer of Austin City Limits welcomed to the crowd to the special evening.

Comedy supercouple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally hosted the celebratory evening which will air on New Year’s Eve on PBS. The entertaining duo kicked things off with a playful attempt to claim the Hall of Fame inductions for themselves, before introducing the night’s first inductee: legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Singer/songwriter and Austin City Limits veteran Rodney Crowell took the stage to pay tribute to one of his heroes and greatest influences. Clad all in black, Kristofferson accepted his award saying, “This is as good as it can get!” Crowell then moved center stage to lead the house band in a rollicking rendition of Kristofferson’s “Chase the Feeling” and an expressive version of his classic ballad  “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” The man himself then arrived for another pair of ballads, specifically the hits “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” and the oft-recorded “For the Good Times,” his voice craggy with experience. Kristofferson then welcomed fellow Austin City Limits Hall of Famer and longtime friend Willie Nelson to the stage, who plugged in Trigger and led everybody in a shuffling take on Kristofferson’s signature tune “Me and Bobby McGee,” to a huge smile from its writer.

Offerman and Mullally returned to introduce the induction of Bonnie Raitt, and gospel soul great Mavis Staples took the stage (to a standing ovation) in order to induct her longtime friend with a touching and hilarious speech. Raitt accepted her award with excitement and humility, then joined Staples onstage for a romp through the swampy Bob Dylan/Danny O’Keefe co-write “Well Well Well.” Staples then quit the stage to be replaced by eclectic bluesologist Taj Mahal for the rocking “Gnawin’ On It,” with Raitt, house band guitarist David Grissom and Mahal (on harp) trading solos around. Willie Nelson joined Raitt onstage to reprise their duet on Stephen Bruton’s (her former guitarist) lovely “Getting Over You,” recorded by the pair on Nelson’s landmark LP Across the Borderline twenty years before. One standing ovation later, Raitt thanked the hardworking Austin City Limits crew and welcomed Staples and Mahal back to the stage for “Thing Called Love.” The trio enhanced the John Hiatt song that’s become one of Raitt’s signature tunes with electric ukulele and sanctified tamborine for a kick-ass performance.

Mullally and Offerman delivered a shout-out to house bandleader Lloyd Maines, introducing the night’s ace band before intermission. The second act began with KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery returning to the stage to induct Dick Peterson, who worked for KLRU from 1984-2008. A TV veteran with decades in the business, the Austin native took over as Austin City Limits executive producer after co-creator Bill Arhos retired in 2000, and received his award for his decades-long work behind the scenes. The night’s hosts returned to introduce the evening’s final inductee: great blues titan B.B. King. Rock legend and blues scholar Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top took to the stage to induct one of his greatest inspirations. King’s award was accepted by Myron Johnson, the bluesman’s longtime personal assistant and tour manager. Offerman and Mullally returned to inform the audience that the trophy would reside in the B.B. King Museum and to introduce the B.B. King Blues Band – not only the band that backed King on the road for many years, but in the case of some of them, musicians who appeared with the King of the Blues on his 1983 debut ACL appearance. Fronted by guitarist/singer Jesse Robinson in King’s absence, the band rolled into a faithful take on his classic “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss.” Gibbons then came back, fronting a trio with King drummer Herman Jackson, Austin organist Mike Flanigin and, of course, himself on guitar. The threesome reached back to the 60s for the 12-bar “The Jungle,” with Gibbons and Flanigin trading blistering solos. The band segued immediately into “You Upset Me Baby,” King’s lascivious #1 R&B single from 1954.   

The King band re-took the stage, joined by previous inductee Raitt and guitar great and Austin native Gary Clark Jr. The pair launched into “The Thrill is Gone,” probably King’s most famous song, filling it with scintillating singing and sizzling solos. Raitt exited and Clark took the spotlight for a faithful “Three O’Clock Blues,” the Lowell Fulsom song that was King’s first hit in 1952. Clark then brought on his friend and Austin blues standout Eve Monsees.  The pair, who learned the blues together while still in high school, romped through King’s 1953 single “Woke Up This Morning.”Willie Nelson returned to the stage to join Clark Jr. for a relaxed but blues-soaked version of “Night Life,” the Nelson original that became a staple of King’s setlist. Nelson’s distinctive picking proved itself as adept at the blues as the country for which he’s known.

Offerman and Mullally came back and brought the entire cast with them for a memorable grand finale- the inductees, the guests and both the house band and the King band. The all-star line-up went into “Everyday I Have the Blues,” another indelible King hit that helped define not only his career, but the genre itself. Both band and audience had a great time, the latter on its feet for the entire song. The celebratory evening came to a close with the entire cast singing a serendipitous version of “Auld Lang Syne” to mark the event’s New Year’s Eve broadcast, with a take so bluesy King’s spirit was surely smiling. For the crowd it might as well have been the real thing, considering the kissing, hugging and celebration going on. Mullally and Offerman thanked everyone for coming and it was over. It was quite a night, the best Hall of Fame ceremony yet, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this Dec. 31 on your local PBS station.

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.