R.I.P. Whitey Shafer

Whitey Shafer on ACL 10

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the death of C&W songwriter Whitey Shafer on Jan. 12 after a long illness. He was 84.

Sanger D. “Whitey” Shafer was born in Whitney, Texas, where he first played in school bands. After touring the country with a then-unknown Willie Nelson, he moved to Nashville in 1967 intending to make it as a singer. However, it was his songs that caught the country music establishment’s ear, and before long he was scoring hits with George Jones (“Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong”), Moe Bandy (“Bandy the Rodeo Clown”), Keith Whitley (“I Wonder Do You Think of Me”) and Johnny Rodriguez and Merle Haggard (“That’s the Way Love Goes,” co-written with Shafer’s pal Lefty Frizzell). He also wrote two of George Strait’s iconic hits: “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” both number ones and both nominated for CMA “Song of the Year” awards.

In recent years Shafer continued writing for contemporary country stars like Lee Ann Womack, John Michael Montgomery and Kenny Chesney. In 2004, Shafer earned a different kind of hit, as his own recording of “All My Ex’s” appeared on the soundtrack of the hit video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Few country songwriters of his generation can claim that, and it’s one of many reasons we’ll not see his like again.

Shafer appeared on ACL in 1980 and 1981 as part of a two-part Songwriters Special, and again in 1985 under his own name. Here he is in 1985, singing “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.”

Willie Nelson returns to the house he built in ACL Season 44

Austin City Limits proudly welcomes back a longtime friend, American music icon Willie Nelson, in a career-spanning hour as he performs a mix of his universally-known hits and new classics from his timeless catalog.

There’s a good reason why a bronze statue of Willie Nelson stands at the entrance to ACL’s studio home on the Austin street that bears his name. The Texas native launched Austin City Limits with the now-historic pilot episode (taped in 1974), ushering in what has become the longest-running television music series ever. Inducted into the inaugural class of the ACL Hall of Fame in 2014, he returns to “the house that Willie built” for a remarkable 18th appearance on the program, marking his first headlining appearance in a decade since he shared the stage with Asleep at the Wheel during Season 35 in 2009. The new performance marks his first appearance with his longtime Family Band since Season 25 in 2000.

In the 45-year history of Austin City Limits, no artist has personified the music series’ eclectic, freewheeling spirit more fully than Willie Nelson. Joined by the five-piece Family band, Willie starts the 16-song set with his perennial opener, “Whiskey River,” the song he launched ACL with almost a half-century ago. The energy is palpable for the mainstays that established him as a songwriting legend: “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy,” and “Night Life” (undertaking such an intense, bluesy shred on his trusty acoustic Trigger that he has to shake out his left hand afterward). He honors departed pals and co-songwriters with shout-outs (“Good Hearted Woman,” “for Waylon!” and “It’s All Going to Pot,” “for Merle!”). Willie calls out often for the crowd to join in, and they reply with joy and respect. “I hear it!”, he answers back with a grin during one of many sing-along moments.

photo by Scott Newton

The set features the pinnacles of his artistry as an interpreter: “Georgia on My Mind” anchored by harmonica master Mickey Raphael’s counter melodies; his version of “Nuages,” Django Reinhardt’s 1940 gypsy jazz instrumental, is lifted by the fascinating interplay with sister Bobbie’s piano; “Always on My Mind” showcases Willie’s inimitable phrasing. In tribute to his own favorite vocalist, Willie dips into his most recent album for a jazzy take on Frank Sinatra’s hit “Fly Me to the Moon.” The outlaw legend performs his new-classic anthem “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” and elicits unerringly faithful crowd-chorus callbacks on “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and the raucous sing-along “On the Road Again.” All reveal a singular artist who’s still exploring, still playful, still pushing the boundaries of where his music can go. After a rousing, standing-room, hand-clapping “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and his now-standard set-closer “I’ll Fly Away,” Willie smiles as wide as Texas, and with a wave of his hat offers a heartfelt “Thank you, Austin City Limits!”

“There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson – simple as that,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He launched ACL into the television universe in 1974, and has helped keep us going for 45 years. It was truly emotional to witness such an outpouring of love from the audience. This show is Willie Nelson, pure and simple.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, 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. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring the return of blues legend Buddy Guy and the debut of hip-hop/jazz supergroup August Greene.

Modern rock rules ACL Season 44 this weekend with Arctic Monkeys and Wild Child

Austin City Limits showcases the best of music from near and far to cure your January blues: UK modern rock icons Arctic Monkeys and Austin favorites Wild Child.

One of today’s biggest live acts, Arctic Monkeys perform highlights from their 2019 Grammy-nominated album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which topped many critics’ 2018 year-end best lists. The acclaimed Sheffield, UK quartet received a coveted 2019 Brit Award nomination for Best Band and they deliver the goods in their ACL debut with a sultry, stylized, captivating six-song set. The Arctic Monkeys play as their movements are captured not only by the ACL cameras, but allegedly, as well, by the cameras of a faux documentary crew filming their every move. Frontman Alex Turner revels in the persona of a rock ‘ roll superstar, oozing charisma on dramatic set opener “Crying Lightning” from 2009’s Humbug before checking into Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino for a lush three-song opus. Turner then checks out with a stone-cold classic, “R U Mine?” from the band’s 2013 chart-topping, platinum smash AM, thrilling the Austin audience.

A band with Central Texas roots, the Austin-based ensemble Wild Child wow in an irresistible ACL debut filled with their wistful-yet-spiky love songs. The Austin-American Statesman raves, “Four albums in, the Austin indie-folk band-that-could has become increasingly confident without losing the sense of childlike wonder that’s so central to the spirit of their music.” The road-tested septet, anchored by perpetually smiling singer Kelsey Wilson and her soaring vocals, perform songs from their recent Expectations. Wilson and co-writer/vocalist/ukelele player Alexander Beggins intertwine vocals on the playful set-opener “Alex,” before the tempo slows for the lush ballad “Eggshells.” The band is joined by a guest set of horns to augment the pop swell of “1996,” and the lovelorn “Back & Forth.” They strip down to guitars and vocals for the harmony-laden fan favorite “Sinking Ship,” before closing out with a crowd-pleaser, the funky, melodic charmer “Expectations.”

photo by Scott Newton

“Every season we include at least a couple of bands that represent the best of Austin, and Wild Child captures the spirit of Austin indie music better than any other,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and Arctic Monkeys is exactly what you would expect – their hardcore fans won’t be disappointed!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, 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. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring the return of American music legend and ACL pilot star Willie Nelson.

Residente showcase his own kind of world music in ACL’s 44th season

Austin City Limits presents an extraordinary hour with Puerto Rican rap superstar Residente. The record-breaking Grammy Award-winning artist makes his ACL debut in a vibrant eight-song set showcasing his whipsmart rap and powerful message of social justice.

Rene Pérez Joglar, aka Residente, has earned a staggering 28 Grammy Awards (more than any other Latin artist) as a solo artist and co-founder of the trailblazing alternative rap duo Calle 13. The superstar also received the prestigious Nobel Peace Summit Award in 2015 for his efforts to promote social awareness and peace. In an impassioned, thought-provoking debut, Residente takes the ACL audience on a journey around the world, exploring his globe-spanning roots through music, and sharing the stories behind many of his songs. The rapper showcases highlights from his 2018 Grammy Award-winning, DNA-test inspired, self-titled solo debut. Finding he had roots all over the world, Residente traveled to many of the places that formed parts of his genetic makeup, from Serbia to Africa.

Backed by a commanding seven-piece band of global musicians hailing from Columbia to Morocco, the charismatic rapper opens with the explosive “Somos Anormales.” Residente preaches a message of unity, vowing “We include people, we don’t exclude people,” and speaking bilingual English and Spanish throughout. This inclusiveness translates to his musical vision as he dazzles on “Dagombas en Tamale,” a song based around the vocal and percussion styles of the Dagombas tribes of the African nation of Ghana. The politically-charged rapper shouts out for resistance, relaying a call to peace through the rapid-fire “Guerra.” Residente drives his message of love home with the gorgeous “Latinoamérica,” telling the roaring crowd, “America is the whole continent. This is for everyone.”

photo by Scott Newton

“At a time when Latin music is exploding worldwide, Residente stands out among his contemporaries,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “His raps are powerful and soul-searching, his music always inspiring, always true to his Puerto Rican roots.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, 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. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring British rockers Arctic Monkeys and Austin favorites Wild Child.

Trombone Shorty and Cyril Neville bring New Orleans funk to Season 44

Austin City Limits showcases Trombone Shorty & his 10-piece band Orleans Avenue in an electrifying hour with the New Orleans funk shooting stars.

“What’s up, ACL? We meet again!” proclaims Trombone Shorty, aka Troy Andrews, in his second appearance on the ACL stage. The celebrated singer/songwriter/trombone sensation made his ACL debut in 2010 and has become New Orlean’s biggest musical ambassador, channeling his hometown’s rich cultural heritage of soul, funk, jazz, rock and hip-hop to audiences worldwide. The bandleader and his band of aces, including horns, guitar and percussion, show off their bona fides on the instrumental opener “Buckjump,” before easing into the brass-band funk of the Allen Toussaint classic “On Your Way Down.” The non-stop party features selections from Shorty’s catalog, including funky rocker “Where It At?” and the show-stopping “Here Come the Girls” from 2017’s acclaimed Parking Lot Symphony, along with numbers from 2011’s For True and 2010’s Backatown.

In a show full of musical highlights, Shorty takes the mood even higher, announcing “We about to take you to uptown New Orleans right now,” introducing a very special guest, ACL Hall of Famer Cyril Neville, “from the mighty, mighty Neville Brothers.” In an exhilarating performance, the beloved showman reaches back to the Nevilles’ origins, burning through the legendary Meters’ “No More Okey Doke” and “Fiyo On the Bayou,” certified Big Easy classics that have the Austin crowd on their feet for a glorious finale.

photo by Scott Newton

“The music of New Orleans has been a part of Austin City Limits’ legacy since the beginning,” according to executive producer Terry Lickona. “The two cities are kindred spirits in so many ways. Virtually every major artist from The Big Easy has played ACL over the years, and Trombone Shorty is the music of New Orleans today.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, 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. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring Latin superstar Residente.

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.  

Khalid and Mac DeMarco showcase original visions in ACL’s 44th season

Austin City Limits showcases two originals: breakout R&B/pop star Khalid and indie rocker Mac DeMarco make their ACL debuts in a new installment premiering this weekend. Khalid performs songs from his Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum debut American Teen. Mac DeMarco delivers soft jams from his acclaimed This Old Dog.

A highlight of 2018’s namesake ACL Festival, Khalid’s meteoric rise to fame launched when he released his first single right before his high school graduation. The El Paso native took the years he spent in high school in the Texan border town as inspiration for a series of hits and his double-platinum debut LP American Teen. The 20-year old has struck a chord with his legions of fans with insightful songs that resonate about modern youth culture—Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum-selling songs about smartphones and being young that audiences relate to. Flashing a wide smile throughout his soaring ACL debut, Khalid showcases songs from his smash American Teen in a soulful, seven-song set as the stoked crowd sings along to every word of his lyrics. Set highlights include the anthem “American Teen,” multi-platinum smash “Young Dumb & Broke” and the four-times platinum single that started it all, “Location.”

The New York Times calls Mac DeMarco “a trendsetting merrymaker” with a “surprising career built on seeming like an affable deadbeat.” The irreverent prankster is known to share wine and cake with fans during his live shows. The Edmonton native promises to keep it smooth at the top of his ACL debut, and he makes good on the pledge in a five-song interactive set of his distinctive laid-back rock. The singer-songwriter-guitarist and his four-piece band spotlight songs from his fourth and best-selling LP This Old Dog, taking a stage set as an unconventional version of an Italian restaurant: checkered tablecloths, fake fruit, plenty of red wine and dollhead masks. Launching into the smoothly flowing set-opener “On the Level,” the creamy sound of an electric grand piano signals the drift into “For the First Time,” an ‘80s-sounding soft rocker with a melody that thrills the ACL audience. The gap-toothed rocker shows off his guitar skills on songs from his 2014 breakthrough, the lo-fi gem Salad Days, including the mellow pop of “Brother” and “Chamber of Reflection.” DeMarco throws a slice of pound cake to the willing audience and closes out the set directing the crowd in a little clapping “classic rock-style” before ditching the guitar for a glass of red wine (“It’s Cab-Sav. It’s French.”) to toast the crowd.

Mac DeMarco on Austin City Limits ©️KLRU photo by Scott Newton

“Khalid and Mac DeMarco are very different, but what they have in common are millions of passionate young music fans who adore them,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Their songs resonate with twentysomethings (and younger) because they relate to their everyday lives in ways that are insightful and friendly, and even a little bit comical.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, 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. Join us next week for a classic encore episode from 1979, featuring the legendary Tom Waits.

ACL announces lineup for second half of Season 44

Austin City Limits announces the second half of Season 44, with eight all-new installments to begin airing December 15 as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. The stellar slate of broadcast episodes features highly-anticipated debuts from today’s most talked-about live acts, and the return of ACL stalwarts, continuing Austin City Limits’ run as the longest-running music television show in history, providing viewers a front-row seat to the best in live performance for over 40 years.

The season returns with many acts making first-time appearances on the ACL stage including UK modern rock icons (and 2019 Grammy nominees) Arctic Monkeys, rising R&B star Khalid and Canadian indie rocker Mac DeMarco splitting a bill, and trailblazing Puerto Rican rapper Residente in a thrilling rapid-fire hour. A series highlight features the return of American icon Willie Nelson, who helped launched ACL in 1974, in a new performance for the ages, marking a remarkable eighteenth appearance on the series and his first headlining set in a decade. Also returning is New Orleans sensation Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews who celebrates his second ACL with a N’awlins-style hourlong party featuring his 10-piece Orleans Avenue band along with special guest, ACL Hall of Fame legend Cyril Neville. Blues giant Buddy Guy, another 2019 Grammy nominee, returns for his third headlining appearance, sharing an episode with the all-star collective known as August Greene, featuring hip-hop’s Common and renowned producers/jazz music phenoms Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins. Austin favorites Wild Child round out the season in a spirited debut from this seven-piece indie-folk outfit.

“This might be our most eclectic mix of artists, styles and genres in one fell swoop ever,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.” It really speaks to what separates Austin City Limits from every other music show, ever. I’m so proud we are able to showcase two giants in their respective genres, and both legends: Buddy Guy and Willie Nelson. Without Willie, there would be no ACL!”

Season 44 | Season 44 Broadcast Season (second half)

December 15 Khalid / Mac DeMarco
December 22 Tom Waits (encore)
December 29 Iggy Pop (encore)
December 31 ACL Hall of Fame New Year’s Special

January 5 Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
January 12 Residente
January 19 Arctic Monkeys / Wild Child
January 26 Willie Nelson

February 2 Buddy Guy/ August Greene

February 9 ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival

ACL’s Season 44 premiered in October with standout performances from St. Vincent, John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Miguel, Anderson East, Alessia Cara, Sam Smith and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The award-winning series will continue to broadcast fan-favorite encore episodes through the end of 2018. In what has become an ACL holiday tradition, the program will encore Tom Waits legendary December 1978 performance, one of the most requested episodes in ACL’s 40+ year archive. Tune-in on December 22nd to see this classic Christmas episode. A recent classic, Iggy Pop’s iconic 2016, Season 42 debut on the ACL stage, backed by an all-star band including Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, encores December 29th.

A special broadcast of Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year’s Eve airs Monday, December 31 at 10pm CT/11pm ET. Austin City Limits rings in the new year with this star-studded celebration, hosted by Chris Isaak, featuring one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the 2018 ACL Hall of Fame induction ceremony, taped October 25, 2018. Performers include ACL royalty Los Lobos, Marcia Ball, Norah Jones, Gary Clark Jr., Irma Thomas, Robert Randolph, Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, Ruthie Foster, Boz Scaggs & more.

photo by Gary Miller

For the eighth consecutive year, the producers of Austin City Limits, in conjunction with Two Talented Cats, LLC, and the Americana Music Association, are proud to present a special ACL Presents on February 9th to close out Season 44—featuring the best music performances from the 17th Annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Ceremony held September 12, 2018 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN.

Austin City Limits continues to offer its popular live streams of select performances for fans worldwide on ACL’s YouTube Channel. Viewers can visit acltv.com for news regarding live streams, future tapings and episode schedules.