R.I.P. Naomi Judd

Austin City Limits was surprised and saddened to learn of the death of Naomi Judd, one half of the superstar country act the Judds. She passed away on April 30, a day before the Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and just after announcing a final tour. No official cause of death was given. 

With her daughter Wynonna, Naomi scored six gold and platinum albums and fourteen #1 singles on the country charts during the late eighties and early nineties, becoming one of the most successful C&W duos of all time. The Judds appeared on Austin City Limits only once, in the tenth anniversary season, fresh off the success of their debut album Why Not Me. But the family’s Austin experience goes deeper than that. As a single mom, Naomi moved her daughters to the city in 1974, at the peak of the progressive country movement and right as the seeds for ACL had been planted, becoming friends with Asleep at the Wheel and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. This was their introduction to country music, so their appearance on ACL a decade later was more than just the introduction of the next superstar act – it was the closing of a circle. 

Our hearts go out to Wynonna and Ashley Judd during this difficult time. As we say goodbye, we present the Judds opening their ACL segment with their joyous, celebratory #1 hit “Girls’ Night Out.” 

The Judds sing “Girls’ Night Out” on Austin City Limits, 1985.

R.I.P. original Austin City Limits producer Paul Bosner

Austin City Limits is saddened to learn of the death of Paul Bosner on March 24, 2022, at the age of 94. A veteran television producer, filmmaker and photographer (click over to his obituary for an overview of his amazing career), Bosner was one of the original triumvirate of ACL creators, along with director Bruce Scafe and executive producer Bill Arthos. Despite living in Dallas, it was Bosner who hit the music clubs and soaked in the cosmic cowboy scene, encouraging KLRN/KLRU program director Arhos in 1974 that the station needed to produce a music show for PBS national. 

Alongside Scafe, Bosner was key in developing the look and feel of ACL in its first season. “He wanted honesty,” wrote Clifford Endres in the 1987 book Austin City Limits. “The only way the camera would capture the truth of the event was for all concerned to concentrate not on technique but on understanding their subject: the music and its audience.” As Bosner himself put it in a memo to the production staff, quoted in Endres’ book:

“…the essence that is to be recorded on tape is that magic that floats back and forth between the musician and the audience, an energy that permeates the atmosphere…There will be no need to establish a visual point of view as to where the camera is – it will be everywhere seeking out relationships, audience to musicians, musicians to each other, musicians to audience.

The influence of those ideas drives the show to this day. 

On top of that, Bosner is usually credited with coming up with the name Austin City Limits. Arhos wanted a three-word title inspired by the movie Macon County Line; since Bosner’s weekly commute from Dallas saw him pass the “Austin City Limits” sign, “the image gradually merged in his mind with the music he heard during his nights in the clubs,” as Endres put it. “‘I’ve got the perfect title,’ he told Scafe.” Thus Bosner saved the show from being titled Hill Country Rain or Travis County Line, and an icon was born. 

Our condolences go out to his family, friends and industry colleagues. May he rest in peace. 

Paul Bosner on the set of Austin City Limits, 1974. Photo by Gary Bishop.
Featured News

RIP Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins

Being a rock star is about more than just fame or charisma or importance – it’s even about more than talent. The real rock stars, the ones that last, that stay in the hearts and minds of fans for life, are also good human beings. There’s something to be said for cockiness and swagger, sure, especially when it’s married to genuine musical power – but it’s the nice guys that stick with us, that will always be remembered with respect and love. 

Taylor Hawkins drumming for Foo Fighters on ACL, 2008. Photo by Scott Newton.

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins was one of those folks. We don’t just say this because of our interactions with him during the two ACL tapings we did with him and the rest of the Foos in 2008 and 2014. His wide smile in photographs, his good cheer onstage and in interviews, and the countless stories from fans and peers about the rays of sunshine he brought with him to any situation attest to that. His talent was, of course, undeniable – his skill on the drums (and other instruments) was matched only by his voracious appetite for all kinds of music. That made him versatile not only as a skinsbeater, but as a songwriter and performer in his own right, as anyone who’s heard his wideranging side projects Birds of Satan, Chevy Metal and Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders can attest. And let’s not forget the Foos single “Cold Day in the Sun” and Concrete and Gold track “Sunday Rain”  – both songs on which he took the lead. 

Taylor Hawkins singing with the Foo Fighters on ACL, 2014.

Like everyone else who cares about music, we’re reeling from the news of his sudden death yesterday. We’re proud to have two incredible Foo Fighters shows in our catalog on which he kept time like an expert and radiated enthusiasm and pure rock & roll energy like the rock star he was. We were looking forward to seeing him again when the band returned for their next taping. But mostly we’re sending our thoughts and love out to his family and his bandmates, and we’re mourning our friend. May he rest in peace. 

Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters on ACL, 2014. Photo by Scott Newton.

Austin fans can watch Foo Fighters Rock ACL, the Season 46 compilation episode, this coming Thursday on Austin PBS. That episode can also be streamed here.

Featured News

Denny Freeman 1944-2021

Austin-based guitarist, keyboardist and songwriter Denny Freeman passed away Sunday, April 25th, from cancer at the age of 76. Freeman was an integral part of Austin’s seminal blues scene, coming up alongside the Vaughan Brothers, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and more. 

After growing up in the Dallas area, he landed in Austin in 1970, where he became a staple on the town’s blues stages and played with many ACL favorites. He shared lead guitar duties with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the Cobras, founded Southern Feeling with ATX blues mentor W.C. Clark and Angela Strehli, and became a member of the Antone’s house band, backing the likes of Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Lazy Lester. He worked closely with Austin blues siren Lou Ann Barton, and recorded and toured with Jimmie Vaughan. After moving to Los Angeles in the early 90s, he became a mainstay in Taj Mahal’s touring band. 

Before moving back to Austin in 2011, Freeman landed his most high-profile gig yet as lead guitarist for Bob Dylan. His five-year tenure in Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour band included a headlining spot at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the recording of the singer/songwriter’s acclaimed LP Modern Times. He also made records with soul singer Percy Sledge, Stevie Ray Vaughan co-writer Doyle Bramhall, and L.A. scene keyboard veteran Barry Goldberg. Along the way he released six mostly instrumental solo records of his own. 

As a key member of Austin’s blues mafia, Freeman appeared on Austin City Limits three times: in Season 15 with W.C. Clark, in Season 20 with Jimmie Vaughan, and in Season 26 with Double Trouble and Friends. Here’s Freeman in 1990 tearing up his Stratocaster with Clark and Angela Strehli on “Big Town Playboy.” 

Denny Freeman on Austin City Limits, 1990.