Guy Clark 1941-2016

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits is saddened by the passing of legendary singer/songwriter Guy Clark this morning after a long illness. Along with his compadre Townes Van Zandt, the Monahans, TX native and longtime Nashville resident wrote new rules for starkly honest songwriting. Distinctive from the West Coast confessional approach and the East Coast folk revival, the writing that came out of the  Lone Star State in the late 60s and early 70s defined a new style of songsmithery that has proven hugely influential not only on Texas music, but on what would become known as Americana. The author of inarguable classics “L.A. Freeway,” “Dublin Blues,” “The Cape,” “Heartbroke” and “Desperadoes Waiting For a Train,” Clark sat in front of a large, talented and influential class, showing everyone with a guitar and a pen how it’s done.

Clark appeared on Austin City Limits seven times, in 1977, 1982, 1983, 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2008, and was inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame in 2015 by Lyle Lovett, who said, “He is my hero. His songs have touched all of us in Texas and people around the world.”

“Call him the ‘Dean’ or ‘King’ of Texas songwriters, he was simply the best there was, and set the standard for all the others,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “If you want to know what makes Texas songwriters different, just listen to Guy Clark. He was a storyteller and a rascal with a poet’s heart. Most of the personal stories I have about him I can’t tell, but maybe someday. I doubt if there will ever be anybody else quite like him.”

May he rest in peace with his wife Susannah and his best buddy Townes in that great songwriters’ bar in the sky.

Here’s Clark singing “Depseradoes Waiting For a Train from his 1977 debut appearance:

“L.A. Freeway” from the 1983 songwriters special:

“Dublin Blues,” from the Lyle Lovett & Friends guitar pull, 2008:

Merle Haggard 1937-2016

photo by Scott Newton

We at Austin City Limits were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of the great Merle Haggard on his 79th birthday, due to complications from pneumonia. An American original often cited as the greatest country singer of all time, Haggard made an incalculable contribution not just to country music, but American music in general. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know at least a handful of his many classics. “Mama Tried,” “Big City,” “Silver Wings,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Okie From Muskogee,” “Daddy Frank,”  “If We Make It Through December,” Mama’s Hungry Eyes,” “Sing Me Back Home” – these songs are essentials threads in the fabric of the American musical tapestry. 

Haggard appeared on our show a total of nine times, in 1978, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1994 and 1996 (twice). “Other than Willie, Merle Haggard was the first major country artist to appear on Austin City Limits in its early years (season 3), and he appeared many times since,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.” He told me once that he was so proud of his ACL performances that he considered them ‘a scrapbook’ of that time in his career. He was a maverick and a true original.”

Below is Haggard from his first appearance on ACL in Season 3, 1978. May he rest in peace.

B.B. King 1925-2015

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits is saddened to learn of the passing of B.B. King. Not only did the King of the Blues visit Studio 6A for two classic performances in 1983 and 1996 (the latter recorded on his 70th birthday), but the man born Riley B. King made a massive contribution to American culture. The blues would not have been the same without BB’s hits: “Three O’Clock Blues,” “Sweet Little Angel,” “How Blue Can You Get,” “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother,” “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss,” “Playing With My Friends,” the titanic hit “The Thrill is Gone.” The world will be a sadder place without the creator of those classics in it.

“B.B. King personified blues music for the whole world,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “but when he first appeared on Austin City Limits in 1983 it was rare for a blues artist to command a full hour on national television. He was larger than life, but a gentle man with a kind soul and big heart. His ACL performance ranks as one of my personal favorites, and I was never more proud than when he somehow slipped ‘Austin City Limits’ into the lyric of his classic rendition of Willie Nelson’s ‘Night Life.’ We’ve lost a giant.”

May he rest in peace.

 

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.

 

Goodbye, Steven Fromholz

Steven Fromholz on ACL

We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the passing of Steven Fromholz, songwriter, poet, author, actor, playwright and whitewater river guide who was named the Poet Laureate of Texas in 2007. Along with Michael Murphy, Rusty Wier, Bobby Bridger and Willis Alan Ramsey, Fromholz was part of the original wave of Austin singer/songwriters from the early 70s who combined counterculture values with folk and country to create a whole new Texas thing. Best known for “Bears,” “I’d Have to Be Crazy” and the iconic “Texas Trilogy,” Fromholz appeared on ACL five times, including in the first season and as part of Lyle Lovett’s 25th season tribute to his influences, Step Inside This House. He will be missed.

 

Ray Price: R.I.P.

Ray Price

We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn that country music legend Ray Price passed away yesterday at the age of 87. The Texas native, whose hits included “Crazy Arms,” “Heartaches By the Number,” “Night Life” (written by his pal Willie Nelson) and the immortal Kris Kristofferson song “For the Good Times,” appeared on ACL three times.  Price’s first appearance came in a 1980 songwriters special which was followed by memorable solo appearances in 1981 and 1999.

“I remember Ray as a class act, a true gentlemen,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He blazed his own trail, gave Willie his first gig, and left an indelible mark on country and pop music.” Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Watch Ray Price’s 1981 ACL segment below. *Note that only the first 20 minutes will play on this page; to watch the entire 28-minute segment, please click through and watch it at video.pbs.org. Thanks.

George Jones R.I.P.

photo by Scott Newton

We here at ACL were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of George Jones this morning at the age of 81. Few country singers had as big an impact on the genre as Texas native Jones, whose career includes such iconic hits as “White Lightnin’,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race is On” and, of course, the immortal “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” He had a big impact on us as well, appearing on the show in 1981, 1986 and 1990.

“George Jones ranks right up there with Hank Williams in my book as one of the all time greatest country singers,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He was the first major country star I booked in my third year as ACL producer, when he and his voice were in their prime. It was an uplifting, breathtaking performance.”

May he rest in peace.

Darrell K. Royal – in memoriam

Darrell K. Royal, published in the book Austin City Limits by Clifford Endres. Photographed in Studio 6A by Scott Newton.

We here at ACL were saddened to learn that legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell K. Royal passed away this morning at the age of 88. Not only was Royal the “winningest coach in University of Texas history,” as noted by the Austin-American Statesman, but he was also a longtime friend of Austin City Limits. He helped us grease the wheels with the many artists he knew personally, including Merle Haggard and George Jones. The “guitar pulls” at his house that featured his buddy Willie Nelson and veteran and up-and-coming writers inspired our Songwriters Specials. And we also remember him as being one of our most loyal fans. His friend Terry Lickona, ACL executive producer, had this to say:

“Darrell Royal – or just Coach, as we called him – was one of the best friends Austin City Limits had back in its early days. He would come to many, if not most, of the tapings in the original Studio 6A. In fact, we saved a special seat for him at practically every show, ‘just in case.’ It was in the corner of the back row of the middle bleacher, where everyone entering could see him and he could greet the fans as they came in. In fact, he actually helped us book Merle Haggard during Season 3, at a time when most major artists had never even heard of the show. He had a passion for music, especially songwriters, a quick wit, an iron-grip handshake and an ear-to-ear smile. There are few, if any, Austin icons like him left.”

Goodbye, Coach. May you rest in peace.

Coach and Willie Nelson at the Austin Opry House, 1977. Photo by Scott Newton. Copyright 1977 Scott Newton.