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.

Freddy Powers 1931-2016

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of yesterday’s passing of the great Freddy Powers at the age of 84. His name may not be immediately familiar, but his songs are. The Oklahoma-born/Texas-raised “country jazz singer” wrote or co-wrote hits for George Jones (“I Always Get Lucky With You”), Willie Nelson and Janie Fricke (“A Place to Fall Apart”) and, most prolifically, Merle Haggard (“Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star,” “Natural High,” “Amber Waves of Grain,” “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room”). He also co-produced Nelson’s platinum album Somewhere Over the Rainbow, hosted the CableACE nominated talk show Rogers and Hammerhead and appeared with Haggard frequently as opening act and special guest, as well as releasing his own albums. On top of all that, he served a stint in the Marines, was a staple in 1970s Las Vegas and appeared on both The Tonight Show and The Today Show. Having already accomplished more than most in one lifetime, Powers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, which slowed down his productivity. But he continued to write and perform as long as he was able to sit in front of an audience and entertain. Along with his buddies Nelson and Haggard and co-author Jake Brown, Powers completed his memoirs, entitled The Spree of 83 and due to be published in February 2017.

“Freddy might not have been a household name, but most of his musical buddies were,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Willie & Merle were two of his closest friends, and they were kindred spirits, musically and personally. He had an infectious passion for what can best be called country jazz, and he had a direct hand in bringing Willie and Merle together for one of the most memorable songwriters shows we ever did, in Season 9. He was also a remarkable songwriter; my favorite was ‘I Always Get Lucky With You,’ which became part of Merle’s repertoire for many years. Freddy’s spirit lives on!”

Powers appeared on Austin City Limits four times: in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1996. Here he is in 1984 with his pals Willie ‘n’ Merle with “After You’re Gone.”

ACL announces Hall of Fame 2016 talent and ticket on-sale date


Austin City Limits announces an all-star line-up of performers for the 2016 ACL Hall of Fame Inductions and Celebration on October 12, 2016: Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr. and Taj Mahal are slated to perform in tribute to the newest class of inductees. The celebration will feature one-of-a-kind music performances and tributes, as three giants of American music are inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson. Comedy super couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally will emcee the celebratory evening. Joining the superstar line-up will be honorees Kris Kristofferson and Bonnie Raitt, who will also perform at the ceremony. More information about performences, presenters and additional guest stars will be announced prior to the event.

The event is open to the public and will take place at ACL’s studio home, Austin’s ACL Live at The Moody Theater. Tickets are on-sale May 20th at 10am at Musical highlights and inductions from the ceremony will be broadcast in a special episode as part of ACL’s Season 42 which premieres in the fall on PBS.

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 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is sponsored in part by SanDisk, Stratus Properties, Heritage Title Company of Austin, Dell and Cousins Properties. For sponsorship opportunities contact Laura Villagran at

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story to premiere at SXSW 2016


Austin City Limits is proud to announce the worldwide debut of A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story at the 2016 South By Southwest Film Festival.

A Song for You tells the inside story of the creation, evolution and staying power of the Peabody Award-winning Austin City Limits. Featuring interviews with producers, creators and artists, the film also showcases plenty of ACL’s chief calling card: incredible performances from across the musical spectrum, many of which have not been seen in decades. Interviewees and performers include Willie Nelson, Beck, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy, the Pixies, Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Townes Van Zandt, Buddy Guy, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, Marcia Ball and many, many more.

From Willie Nelson to Wilco, Ray Charles to Radiohead, A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story offers the ultimate backstage pass to 40 years of incredible music from the longest running music show in American television history. Stay tuned for more information or visit the official website here

Johnny Gimble 1926-2015

photo by Scott Newton

We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the passing of the great Johnny Gimble, Texas swing and C&W fiddler extraordinaire. The Tyler, Texas native and Dripping Springs resident was 88.

Following a stint in the army, Gimble played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in the late 40s, appearing on the classic 1950 recording of “Faded Love.” After spending a few years in Waco working as a barber and raising a family, the fiddle virtuoso moved to Nashville and became a first-call session musician. Gimble appeared on recordings by Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Ray Price and his longtime musical running buddy Willie Nelson, with whom he toured in the late ‘70s. Gimble was also recruited for Nashville session supergroups the Million Dollar Band (frequent performers on Hee Haw) and the Superpickers, and backed Carrie Underwood at the Grammy Awards in 2007. He also scored a country hit of his own in 1983 with “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle,” featuring Ray Price, and appeared in Clint Eastwood’s film Honkytonk Man as his old boss Bob Wills. His most recent album is 2010’s Ray Benson-produced Celebrating With Friends, recorded in collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame. That album also includes performances with his singer/pianist daughter Emily, who makes her ACL debut later this year as a member of Asleep at the Wheel.

Gimble was also a frequent guest on Austin City Limits, appearing numerous times with Willie Nelson, as well as making memorable appearances with the Superpickers in Season 4 and on the Season 6 Mandolin Special, on which he demonstrated his expertise on his other instrument, the electric mandolin. Gimble fronted a double-header episode in Season 5, headlining the first half and leading the Texas Swing Pioneers in the second half.

“Aside from being a Texas Playboy, he was the most renowned Country and Western Swing fiddler – ever!” remarked ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He played with heart and soul and had an infectious spirit and sense of adventure – in both his music and personality. Before Lloyd Maines set the current record, Johnny played more times on ACL than any other musician. There was a time when everybody wanted Johnny Gimble to play on their show.”

Our condolences go out to his family and friends, of which he had hundreds. May he rest in peace.


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 Season 40 pt. 2 starts January 3

photo by Scott Newton

Austin, TX—December 3, 2014—The landmark television music series Austin City Limits (ACL) unwraps the second half of its milestone Season 40, celebrating a four-decade run with more legendary artists, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts.  Seven brand-new shows begin airing in January 2015 as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. Providing viewers with a front-row seat to the best in music performance for 40 years, ACL returns on Saturday, January 3rd with a double-bill featuring the return of roots rockers The Avett Brothers and Grammy-winning bluegrass trio Nickel Creek. ACL airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings for times) and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at immediately following the initial broadcast. The show’s official hashtag is #acltv40.

A highlight of the season is powerhouse rock duo The Black Keys, with the six-time Grammy winners making their highly anticipated ACL return, having first appeared in Season 36. ACL favorites Spoon make their fourth appearance, sharing the bill with fellow Austin natives White Denim. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis returns for her solo ACL debut, originally appearing in Season 31 as part of the indie rock duo Rilo Kiley; in what’s sure to be one of ACL’s most talked about episodes, Ryan Adams shares the bill in a memorable ACL return. The extended line-up features a number of artists making ACL debuts, among them chart-topping British sensation Sam Smith, synth-pop trio Future Islands and southern rockers J. Roddy Walston & The Business.

photo by Scott Newton

Rock superstars Foo Fighters return to the ACL stage with an hourlong, monumental performance. Joined by Austin legends Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan, Foo Fighters’ powerful performance is a high point of the standout season.  The renowned band recently immortalized Austin and ACL’s executive producer Terry Lickona in an installment of their HBO series Sonic Highways, even recording a song, “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”,  in ACL’s historic Studio 6A for their companion new release.

photo by Scott Newton

ACL wraps up the celebratory season with a special episode featuring performance highlights from the first annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame presentation.  Performers include music legends Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy and Double Trouble.

“We’ve had an amazing 40th anniversary year,” says ACL’s Terry Lickona, “and the second half of the season says as much about the future as our past. As always, we try to showcase the best music being created today, and every one of these shows is exceptional. Then for a grand finale, we’ll tie it all together with a celebration of the artists and individuals who have inspired the longest-running music show on TV.”

Here’s the national broadcast schedule, check your local PBS listings for dates and times in your area!

January 3, 2015      | The Avett Brothers | Nickel Creek
January 10, 2015    | Spoon | White Denim
January 17, 2015    | Sam Smith | Future Islands
January 24, 2015   | Ryan Adams | Jenny Lewis
January 31, 2015    | The Black Keys | J. Roddy Walston & The Business
February 7, 2015    | Foo Fighters
February 14, 2015  | Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Special

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.