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 2018 taping an emotional, exciting evening

Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas, HOF 2018; photo by Gary Miller

It goes without saying that an ACL Hall of Fame taping is something special. The combination of ACL greats being saluted by their peers and fans always makes for an emotional, exciting evening. For the HOF’s fifth anniversary, we were privileged to honor Austin blues icon Marcia Ball, East L.A. rock pioneers Los Lobos and the late American music giant Ray Charles. With an all-star roster of talent to celebrate these tremendous artists’ work, it’s no wonder the Hall of Fame is something we look forward to every year.

Following a delightful set of tunes from Austin’s own Mariachi Los Toros and remarks from KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, host Chris Isaak took the stage to introduce the first honoree: singing/songwriting/piano-pounding ATX veteran Marcia Ball. Inducted by her longtime friend and collaborator Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Ball gave a lovely speech that paid tribute to her inspirations (including Thomas), her family and band, and music charities HAAM, HOME and SIMS. She took her seat behind the piano and introduced Thomas and singer Tracy Nelson. Together the trio reprised their 1998 appearance on ACL with the joyful “Sing It,” the title track from their Grammy-nominated collaboration of the same name. The threesome went back to the blues for the shuffling “I Want to Do Everything For You,” from the same record. Ball then brought up her old friend and Austin treasure Lou Ann Barton, along with next-generation blues singers Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland. Together the sextet paid tribute to Dreams Come True, the 1990 album Ball and Barton made with the sadly absent Angela Strehli, rolling through Ike Turner’s classic “Fool in Love.” Ball, King, Wonderland, Nelson and Thomas closed out the segment with the funky, uplifting “Shine Bright,” the title tune to Ball’s latest record, and proof that she’s as vital an artist now as she’s ever been.

Gary Clark Jr., Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland and Ruthie Foster pay tribute to Ray Charles at HOF 2018; photo by Gary Miller

One quick set change later, Chris Isaak returned to introduce the next inductee, “one of the most important music artists in American music history,” the late, great Ray Charles. The genre-defiant musical giant nicknamed the Genius was inducted by Concord Records president John Burk, who produced Charles’ final album Genius Loves Company and told the story of proposing that album to Charles in his office. Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, accepted the award as the house band and Norah Jones took the stage. Joined by former Ray Charles Orchestra keyboardist and musical director Dr. James Polk, the ivories-tickling singer opened with the quietly dramatic ballad “Seven Spanish Angels,” originally recorded in 1984 as a duet between Charles and Willie Nelson. Jones then reached back three decades to the mid-fifties for the blues ballad “What Would I Do Without You,” one of her favorite Charles tunes. Host Isaak came on to gracefully sing one of Charles’ iconic recordings: Don Gibson’s classic country tune “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Two of Austin’s own rounded out the tribute. Equally genre-agnostic singer and songwriter Ruthie Foster put her remarkable voice to the service of “Georgia On My Mind,” Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal standard that will forever be associated with Charles – though Foster’s gospel-influenced reading gave the master a run for his money. Foster remained onstage, joined by Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, to back up blues rock star Gary Clark Jr., eschewing his trademark guitar slinging for a swaggering take on the sizzling “(Night Time is) the Right Time.” Isaak returned to praise house band director Lloyd Maines, who introduced the ACL All-Stars: guitarist David Grissom, organist Red Young, hornmen John Mills, Jon Blondell, Eric Burnheart and Adrian Ruiz, bassist Bill Whitbeck and drummer Tom Van Schaik.

Following an intermission, Isaak returned to introduce the night’s final honoree: one of America’s greatest, most versatile rock & roll bands, Los Lobos. Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez inducted the band, telling the story of how they scored his movie Desperado. Accepting the award, David Hidalgo talked about how the Austin musical royalty of the early eighties welcomed them to town. Then it was time for Los Lobos to do what it does best, as they picked up their instruments and launched right into “Will the Wolf Survive,” the song that took the rock underground by storm in 1984. Steel guitar master Robert Randolph then came on stage for “Don’t Worry Baby,” the blazing blues rocker that opens Lobos’ first album and a standard of their shows since. The band donned acoustic instruments for one of their catalog highlights – the title track of La Pistola y El Corazón, the group’s tribute to its Mexican-American roots. Then came what may have been a surprise to Los Lobos’ fanbase, as singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs arrived to join the band to add vocals and guitar to “Hearts of Stone,” a groovy, soulful Lobos classic.

Los Lobos, Boz Scaggs, Robert Rodriguez close HOF 2018 with “La Bamba”; photo by Gary Miller

Of course, Los Lobos couldn’t leave the stage without playing their biggest hit. But they didn’t do it alone, inviting all the night’s performers, plus Rodriguez and guitarist Adrian Quesada, up for a rousing “La Bamba,” with a big rock ending and plenty of streamers. You couldn’t ask for a better ending than that, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the ACL Hall of Fame 2018 Special airs on New Year’s Eve on your local PBS station.

Austin City Limits announces 2018 Hall of Fame honorees

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Update: Tickets on sale now!

Austin City Limits announces the fifth anniversary class of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductees, recognizing three American originals: blues stalwart Marcia Ball, the legendary Ray Charles and pioneering rockers Los Lobos. The 2018 ACL Hall of Fame inductees will be saluted at a star-studded ceremony to be held October 25th, 2018 at ACL’s studio home, ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Music great Chris Isaak is back by popular demand to host the celebratory evening, which will feature an all-star line-up of guest performers including rock superstar Dan Auerbach, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas and powerhouse vocalist Tracy Nelson. More information about performances, presenters and additional guest stars will be announced prior to the event. Musical highlights and inductions from the ceremony will air in a special New Year’s Eve broadcast of Austin City Limits as part of the program’s Season 44 which premieres in the fall on PBS.   

The event will be open to the public and tickets are on sale May 18th at 10am CT at acltv.com/hall-of-fame. Sponsor packages are available now at acltv.com/hall-of-fame. All proceeds benefit KLRU-TV, Austin PBS.

The fifth class of inductees features a diverse group of music legends with longtime ties to Austin City Limits: celebrated blues pianist and vocalist Marcia Ball debuted on the program’s first season in 1976, making three more standout appearances in 1979, 1990 and 1998. The one and only Ray Charles made two classic appearances on ACL starting in Season 5 in 1980 and again in 1984, playing an instrumental role in validating the nascent show’s reputation as a live music beacon. Los Lobos’ musical kinship with ACL includes six appearances on the series, debuting in Season 14 in 1989, and returning to celebrate their milestone forty years as a band during ACL’s own 40th anniversary season in 2014.

The honorees and their legacies shared their reactions to joining the ranks of outstanding artists who have been inducted into the Austin City Limits  Hall of Fame:

Marcia Ball: “Austin City Limits put Austin on the map all over the country. Whenever we are touring, when I say where we are from, the immediate response is, “Austin City Limits.” People in outlying towns would drive to major cities, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Atlanta, because they had seen us on the show. In the years when my broadcasts were current, I could have filled a 90 minute tape with the words, “I never heard of you before, but I saw you on Austin City Limits.” ACL opened the door into millions of homes for us and other regional bands. It is, as far as I know, the longest running and only hour-long pure music performance outlet with major national distribution. Some of my most memorable musical moments have been as a performer or in the audience at an Austin City Limits show.  I was always honored to be asked to play ACL and I am thrilled and grateful to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame.”

“Ray Charles’ life force was to create and perform ever-lasting great music,” said Valerie Ervin, President, The Ray Charles Foundation. “Austin City Limits shares this philosophy, which is the reason it is one of the most enduring shows ever. Mr. Charles enjoyed appearing on the show twice and he would be touched with this honor.”

Los Lobos: “We could not be more honored to receive this award from the Austin City Limits folks. We have effectively grown up together and it’s remarkable what we have seen in the 40+ years that we have both been plowing our field, so to speak. We look forward to a wonderful time in Austin with our good friends at ACL and hopefully with some old friends all along for the ride as well.”

“Our 2018 Hall of Fame honorees clearly show how diverse our talent choices were even back in the early years of ACL,” says executive producer Terry Lickona, “as well as the priority we’ve always given to artists who stand out as originals in their genres.”

The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame was established in 2014 to celebrate 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. 2015’s second annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony 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. Last year’s Hall of Fame honored Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and The Neville Brothers, and the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.

The 5th Anniversary Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration is presented by NetApp and is sponsored in part by AXS, Dell, Keller Williams, Stratus Properties and Texas Monthly.

 

About the 2018 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Honorees:

Marcia Ball

photo by Scott Newton

In a remarkable career spanning 50 years, Marcia Ball—the official 2018 Texas State Musician— has earned worldwide fame and countless fans for her ability to ignite a full-scale roadhouse rhythm and blues party every time she takes the stage. Her rollicking Texas boogies, swampy New Orleans ballads and groove-laden Gulf Coast blues have made her a one-of-a-kind favorite with music lovers all over the world. Born in Orange, Texas and raised across the border in Vinton, Louisiana, Ball began piano lessons at age 5, falling under the spell of blues and soul music at 13 after witnessing a performance by New Orleans great Irma Thomas. Moving to Austin in 1970, Ball led progressive country band Freda and the Firedogs until 1974, when she began her solo career. Debuting on Austin City Limits during the first season in 1976, Ball has gone on to appear on the show three more times, and has released sixteen albums (including 1998’s Grammy-nominated Sing It! with fellow blues/soul enthusiast Tracy Nelson and inspiration Irma Thomas). Ball has won 10 Blues Music Awards, 10 Living Blues Awards, and is a five-time Grammy nominee. Her love of the road has led to gigs from roadhouses to the White House, and the living legend shows no signs of slowing down, releasing her seventeenth album in 2018, the critically-acclaimed Shine Bright (produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin).

Ray Charles

photo by Scott Newton

Singer, songwriter, pianist, producer and visionary, Ray Charles is one of the most important and influential musicians in American history. In five decades of recording, the music of the man nicknamed the Genius encompassed blues, jazz, R&B, country & western, pop and every permutation in between. His landmark 1954 single “I’ve Got a Woman” combined elements of gospel, jazz and blues to create what we now call soul. His list of hits is seemingly endless – “What’d I Say?,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Busted,” “Drown In My Own Tears,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and his immortal version of “America the Beautiful” are merely the tip of the iceberg. Albums like Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Genius Loves Company, True to Life and The Genius Sings the Blues are considered classics. With multiple Grammys, an Oscar-winning biopic (Ray, starring Jamie Foxx), millions of records sold and everyone from Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison to James Taylor, Billy Joel and Norah Jones citing him as an inspiration, Charles is one of the titans of American song. His 1980 appearance on Austin City Limits helped break the show’s talent roster wide open, and his 1984 episode has become equally lauded. Fourteen years after his death, Ray Charles remains a musical icon.

Los Lobos

photo by Scott Newton

One of America’s great bands, Los Lobos have carved out their own distinctive space in a career that’s spanned over 40 years. Formed by David Hidalgo, Louis Perez, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano in the early seventies in East Los Angeles, the band started out playing rock & roll, before transitioning to traditional Mexican cumbia, norteña and corridos. The postpunk explosion in L.A. encouraged them to shift back to rock while retaining their Mexican-American heritage, giving them a unique sound in the American underground. With the addition of multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Berlin, Los Lobos released a steady stream of LPs now considered classics, including 1985’s How Will the Wolf Survive, 1992’s Kiko and 2006’s The Town and the City, and scored a number one hit with its 1987 cover of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.” The band’s wide-ranging musical vision and dedication to expanding their craft has earned widespread acclaim, with over 20 albums, three Grammy Awards and tours with Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and U2. Los Lobos has brought catalog favorites like “Don’t Worry, Baby,” “One Time, One Night,” “La Pistola y El Corazon” and “Mas y Mas” to the ACL stage six times starting in Season 14, including five headlining slots and as part of the Season 24 Mexican Roots Music Celebration show.

Austin City Limits and the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame are produced by KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. KLRU is a non-profit organization providing public television and educational resources to Central Texas as well as producing quality national programming.