Earl Scruggs 1924-2012

We here at Austin City Limits were heartbroken to learn of the death of the great Earl Scruggs on March 28 at the age of 88. The pioneering bluegrass banjo player graced our stage three times, once during Season 2 in 1976 with the Earl Scruggs Revue (a band that included his sons) and twice during Season 25 in 2000 as the distinguished guest of both Marty Stuart and Bela Fleck.

Bill Arhos, co-creator and executive producer emeritus of Austin City Limits, had this to say about the passing of one of our favorite musicians:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Earl Scruggs. I listened to him and Lester Flatt as a young boy growing up in East Texas. In the early 70s, we were having a Public Television meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and, during a break, I heard an incredible sound of a band coming from somewhere in the hotel and proceeded to try to track it down. I can only describe the sound as Bluejazz or Jazzgrass. It was a rehearsal in the ballroom but it broke up just as I was approaching it down a hallway, whereupon a man with a really elaborate banjo came walking toward me. I said, “Gee mister, you REALLY can play that thing” and he said, “Thank you, son.” Oh dear.

That night after dinner, the MC came out and said, “Ladies and gentleman, in their first performance as a group, please welcome THE EARL SCRUGGS REVUE.” Foot in mouth, I had told Earl Scruggs he could play a banjo. Then, with the band onstage, including three of his sons, out comes Earl to the front, and a few feet farther and he fell right off the front of the stage and crashed to the floor. His son, Gary, looked down at him and said, “That’s what you call charisma!”

I can hear “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” rolling along in my head.

We here at Austin City Limits believe Earl Scruggs was a musical titan. He will be missed by all of us and by music fans everywhere.


Etta James, 1938-2012

Austin City Limits is saddened to learn of the death of the great Etta James. From “The Wallflower” and “Tell Mama” to “I’d Rather Go Blind” and the immortal “At Last,” this R&B pioneer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member scattered enough gems across the musical landscape to light the way for many future generations of singers.

ACL was honored to have Ms. James appear on the show in 2004.


“Etta James encapsulated an entire era of rhythm & blues, soul, jazz and rock and roll in that amazing voice that came from somewhere deep in her psyche,” said Terry Lickona, ACL Executive Producer.  “Her life story, as told in her autobiography, is one of the most amazing in all of modern music. She was on ACL’s must-have list for many years, and when she finally stepped on our stage it was one of my most gratifying moments. She loved the show, and I’ll never forget when her husband called afterwards to ask for a few extra DVD copies of the program for her to give to her closest friends as Christmas presents. God bless Etta James!”

Our thoughts go out to her family. May she rest in peace.


R.I.P. Bee Spears, Willie Nelson’s long-serving bass player

We here at ACL TV were saddened to learn that longtime Willie Nelson bassist Bee Spears passed away this weekend. You can find more details here.

Here he is with Willie from the pilot episode of Austin City Limits.


Watch Pilot Performance: Willie Nelson “Bloody Mary Morning” on PBS. See more from AUSTIN CITY LIMITS.