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Austin City Limits’ 46th season opens with the late John Prine

Live music beacon Austin City Limits proudly opens Season 46 with a gem: a poignant season premiere featuring the best of American songwriting giant John Prine. Sadly we lost Prine in 2020 due to complications from Covid-19, but ACL celebrates his remarkable life and legacy with twelve classic performances, chronicling his early days from his 1978 debut in Season 3 on the program to his final appearance in Season 44 in 2018. The requiem showcases the folk hero’s signature wit and wisdom, detailing the stories behind some of his most beloved songs. Check your local listings for showtimes. 

Called “the Mark Twain of American songwriting” by Rolling Stone, Prine made eight appearances on ACL over the course of 40 years, and the career-spanning hour captures his storied career, showcasing a mix of vintage fan favorites and more recent gems and includes a never-before-aired 1987 performance of his classic “Sam Stone.” Prine’s singular talent and his ability to write songs about everyday lives and the human condition were revered by generations of songwriters and the episode features a heartfelt introduction by Americana star Jason Isbell; Isbell introduces the hour saying “The thing I admired most about John’s songs was the way he could step completely into someone else’s life.” 

The hour opens with Prine’s 1978 ACL debut, performing a pair of solo acoustic numbers, “Fish and Whistle” and “Hello in There,” as he introduces his immense talents to a rapt audience. Prine’s 1983 appearance as part of a songwriters special, alongside peers such as Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell, is captured here; he captivates the crowd and fellow artists with a hilarious intro to the irreverent relationship saga “There She Goes.” A bonus for fans is a never-before-aired 1987 performance of the addicts elegy “Sam Stone,” with Prine sharing a moving story about a personal visit to DC’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The hour showcases many of his best-known songs, including early standouts “Illegal Smile” and “Paradise” from his self-titled 1971 debut. Celebrated as a great storyteller, Prine sparkles in his introduction to “Jesus, The Missing Years” from 1992, gamely speculating on the deity’s young adulthood and Prine’s own wayward ways. Prine makes a memorable 2002 guest appearance, joining Bonnie Raitt for a gorgeous duet of the Prine-penned “Angel from Montgomery,” in a performance Raitt has called one of the highlights of her career. The hour closes with a pair of songs about mortality from Prine’s last album The Tree of Forgiveness during his final ACL appearance in 2018. Bouncing back and forth between spoken recitation and joyful singing on the closer “When I Get to Heaven,” the songwriter offers a good-time singalong about leaving this world on a high note. Prine couldn’t have written a better epitaph: When he gets to heaven, he tells the Austin crowd, “I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock ’n’ roll band/check into a swell hotel/ain’t the afterlife grand?”

“Very few artists appeared on ACL more times than John Prine,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “It was a mutual love affair – he loved doing the show, and we loved having him (8 times!!). We consider these his best performances, and as always, he will have you laughing and crying – sometimes both during the same song.”

“John loved to play Austin City Limits and was very proud to have made so many appearances over the years,” said Prine’s widow Fiona Whelan Prine. “Terry Lickona has been a wonderful supporter of John’s career and a good friend to our family. Thank you ACL and Terry for opening your season with this special show.“ 

Episode setlist:

Fish and Whistle (1978)

Hello in There (1978)

There She Goes (1983)

Sam Stone (1987)

Illegal Smile (1987)

Paradise (1987)

Jesus, The Missing Years (1992)

Everything Is Cool (1992)

Picture Show (1996)

Angel from Montgomery (2002)

Summer’s End (2018)

When I Get to Heaven (2018)

As always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL info. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring soulful British songstress Yola. 

About Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits (ACL) offers viewers unparalleled access to featured acts in an intimate setting that provides a platform for artists to deliver inspired, memorable, full-length performances. Now in its 46th Season, the program is taped live before a concert audience from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Austin City Limits is the longest-running music series in television history and remains the only TV series to ever be awarded the National Medal of Arts. Since its inception, the groundbreaking music series has become an institution that’s helped secure Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. The historic KLRU Studio 6A, home to 36 years of ACL concerts, has been designated an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Landmark. In 2011, ACL moved to the new venue ACL Live at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin. ACL received a rare institutional Peabody Award for excellence and outstanding achievement in 2012.

Austin City Limits is produced by Austin PBS, KLRU-TV and funding is provided in part by Dell Technologies, RigUp, the Austin Convention Center Department and Cirrus Logic. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Austin City Limits. Learn more about Austin City Limits, programming and history at acltv.com. 

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Featured News Taping Announcement

Austin City Limits announces Season 46

Live music beacon Austin City Limits proudly announces the fall return of the series and the initial Season 46 broadcast line-up; new installments begin airing October 3 as part of the program’s thirteen-episode season. With live music still on pause, ACL brings fans a full season filled with highly-anticipated debuts from some of today’s most talked-about live acts, as well as deep dives featuring ACL legends. The program continues its extraordinary run as the longest-running music television show in history. ACL has been broadcast on PBS since the series’ inception in 1974, and is proud to salute PBS as they celebrate a milestone 50 years on the air on October 4, 2020. 

Austin City Limits returns this fall with a gem: a poignant season premiere featuring the best of late songwriting giant John Prine’s eight appearances on the series, starting with his ACL debut in 1978. The legendary singer/songwriter appeared regularly on ACL throughout his celebrated five-decade career, and this hour-long tribute captures his evolution with twelve classics, including his final appearance in 2018 during Season 44. The requiem showcases Prine’s signature wit and wisdom, detailing the stories behind the songs and includes a never-before-aired 1987 performance of his classic “Sam Stone.” Prine’s singular talent was revered by generations of songwriters and the retrospective will feature a heartfelt introduction recorded by Americana star Jason Isbell.

The season continues with highly-anticipated debut appearances: UK country soul sensation Yola showcases her 2020 Grammy-nominated album Walk Through Fire in a dazzling hour. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright makes his ACL debut performing career highlights alongside selections from Unfollow the Rules, his first new pop album since 2012; Wainwright is backed by members of North Texas bands Midlake and the Texas Gentleman in a stunning hour. Breakout blues, rock, R&B, soul singer/guitar-slinger, Austin’s own Jackie Venson, makes her highly-anticipated ACL debut. Rock and country trailblazers The Mavericks make their third appearance on the ACL stage showcasing their chart-topping, all Spanish-language album, En Español

ACL reprises a particularly timely and relevant installment: John Legend and The Roots: Wake Up! Inspired by the 2008 Presidential election, the 2011 hour features the giants of R&B and hip hop teaming up to perform a collection of socially-conscious cover songs from the 60s and 70s. ACL also encores one of the most-requested episodes in its canon: gospel legend Mavis Staples’ stellar 2012 appearance with her friend Bonnie Raitt, featuring a hit parade of classics.

Season 46 salutes a pair of ACL legends on the milestone anniversary of their iconic ACL appearances: Stevie Ray Vaughan: 30 Years On, an hour-long special, features highlights from the legendary bluesman’s signature performances on ACL in 1983 and 1989, bookends of an incredible career from Austin’s pride & joy, and two of the most-requested episodes in the history of ACL. Stevie Ray made his final performance on Austin City Limits on October 10, 1989, and thirty years after his tragic death on August 27, 1990, ACL showcases both performances in their entirety in a rare broadcast featuring back-to-back classics including “Texas Flood”, “Voodoo Child” and “Crossfire” from the Austin legend and his band Double Trouble. 

Also on deck is a special ACL Presents installment: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel. This hour-long retrospective offers a fascinating look at the band’s evolution from the 1970s to the present via highlights from their many appearances on ACL. For 50 years, founder Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel have been the chief practitioners, conspirators and caretakers of Western swing, carrying the genre’s traditions well into the 21st century, reaching both their contemporaries and inspiring a new generation of artists. 

“As we launch a brand new season in very uncertain times, ACL continues to break new ground,” said longtime ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “To begin, we celebrate the great John Prine, who was one of the early victims of the COVID pandemic. We’ll also look back at Austin’s pride and joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, three decades since his passing. But, as always, we’ll welcome some first-timers and spotlight the best of what’s happening in Austin today.”

Austin City Limits has created a new opening sequence https://youtu.be/4ZPKRvbukoM to mark these historic times, acknowledging the challenges local Austin and Texan acts have faced during the global pandemic. The opening features Austin’s Black Pumas “Colors” and showcases many of Austin’s own homegrown talents captured at their homes and front porches, including Ruthie Foster, Ray Wylie Hubbard, White Denim, Jackie Venson, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Black Pumas and more.

Season 46 Broadcast Line-up (six new episodes to be announced):

October 3 The Best of John Prine (featuring Jason Isbell intro)

October 10 Yola

October 19 Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On

October 24 Rufus Wainwright

October 31              ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel

November 7 John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up! (encore)

November 14 Bonnie Raitt (encore) | Jackie Venson

November 21         The Mavericks

Tune-in, log on, and let ACL be a trusted sidekick for entertainment during these challenging days. The complete line-up for the full 13-week season will be announced at a later date. Viewers can visit acltv.com for news regarding live streams, future tapings and episode schedules or by following ACL on Facebook, Twitter and IG. Fans can also browse the ACL YouTube channel for exclusive songs, behind-the-scenes videos and full-length artist interviews.

Austin City Limits is produced by Austin PBS, KLRU-TV and funding is provided in part by Dell Technologies, RigUp, the Austin Convention Center Department and Cirrus Logic. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Austin City Limits. Learn more about Austin City Limits, programming and history at acltv.com.