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Episode recap: Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On

Austin City Limits celebrates an icon with Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On, an epic hour featuring the guitar giant’s two classic appearances on the ACL stage, on the 30th Anniversary of his tragic death. Widely hailed as one of the premier blues-rock guitarists, the Grammy-winning Vaughan made magic in his ACL outings and the broadcast captures his magnetic performances. The installment premieres October 17 at 9pm ET/8pm CT as part of the live music beacon’s Season 46. With live music still on pause, ACL continues to provide viewers a front-row seat to the best in live performance. The series airs weekly on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings) and full episodes are made available online for a limited time at pbs.org/austincitylimits immediately following the initial broadcast.  

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s two iconic appearances on the ACL stage in 1983 and 1989 rank among the most highly-requested episodes in the program’s archives. Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On, an hour-long special, showcases the pair of performances in a rare broadcast, bookends of an incredible career cut short by the guitar hero’s tragic death in a helicopter crash at age 35 on August 27, 1990. The Texas bluesman’s towering command of the Fender Stratocaster was unparalleled, and Vaughan bridged the gap between blues and rock ‘n’ roll with an excitement that hadn’t been witnessed since Jimi Hendrix’s reign, sparking a rebirth of the blues, and inspiring a new generation of music fans. Three decades later, his lasting influence continues to resonate as countless musicians credit Vaughan’s ACL appearances as their inspiration to pick up the guitar. Vaughan and Double Trouble were inducted into the inaugural class of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2014 and the hometown legend is forever memorialized with a bronze statue in Austin. 

The thrilling hour opens with Vaughan’s December 1983 ACL debut, with the iconic riff of his signature “Pride and Joy,” as the virtuoso captivates with his passion-fueled guitar music and blistering Stratocaster solos. Performing alongside Double Trouble, featuring Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon on bass, the guitar-slinger soars on a pair of inspired covers: the title track to his 1983 debut album Texas Flood, with a slowburn reading of the Lone Star classic, dazzling with his ability to play the guitar behind his back, and an epic interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” that is pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger.

Vaughan made his final ACL appearance on October 10, 1989, less than a year prior to his untimely death, newly sober and at the height of his powers, in a performance for the ages. Delivering back to back highlights from his acclaimed 1989 final album In Step, including “Tightrope,” “Cold Shot” and “Leave My Girl Alone,” Vaughan’s performance is extraordinary, displaying a combination of raw power, deep emotion and technical brilliance with note perfect solos. Augmented by the addition of keyboardist Reese Wynans, Double Trouble and Vaughan sizzle with an exhilarating performance of their 1989 smash “Crossfire,” punctuated by the guitar icon’s scorching runs. “This one goes out to anyone who’s still suffering in any way,” says the all-time great as he launches into the shimmering instrumental “Riviera Paradise,” pushing the guitar to new heights and continuing to explore new boundaries.

“30 years after his tragic death, these performances serve as bookends to Vaughan’s brilliant career with Double Trouble,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “showing a striking contrast between ‘zero self-confidence’ and ‘pure magic,’ but in both cases you can see a master at work.”

“My brother was so incredibly talented,” says Jimmie Vaughan. “Austin City Limits captured many of his best performances.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan 30 Years On setlist:

Pride and Joy

Texas Flood

Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Tightrope

Leave My Girl Alone

Cold Shot

Crossfire 

Riviera Paradise

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

October 3 The Best of John Prine 

October 10 Yola

October 17 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!

November 14 Jackie Venson | Mavis Staples w/Bonnie Raitt

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.

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. 

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Featured News

ACL Hall of Fame inducts Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more

ACL’s 40th anniversary brings the debut of a long-held dream: the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. To celebrate, we held our first induction ceremony on April 26 in the original home of ACL, KLRU-TV’s Studio 6A. We were proud to inaugurate Willie Nelson, the first artist to ever appear on the show and a frequent guest ever since; Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, who made two iconic ACL appearances; Bill Arhos, creator of the show back in 1974; and Darrell Royal, the archetypal U.T. football coach and dedicated fan who was instrumental in introducing country superstars to the ACL lineup. But we did more than just hand out awards. It’s all about the music on this program, after all, so we also lined up some fantastic performances.

After opening remarks by ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, Oscar-winning actor and native Texan Matthew McConaughey introduced Willie Nelson. Backed by Lyle Lovett’s band and his stalwart harmonica player Mickey Raphael, the 81-year-old Texas legend opened his set with his perennial vanguard “Whiskey River,” the Lovett group giving it an almost funky backbeat. That rhythm became more hard-hitting as Willie moved directly into “Still is Still Moving to Me,” the closest thing he has to a rock anthem. “Here’s a new gospel song I just wrote,” Willie noted wryly before he launched into “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” his latest hit.

Willie then introduced the leader of the band he was borrowing, as Lyle Lovett came onstage for a duet on Willie’s country/soul crossover hit “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Lovett first sang this song with Al Green and was honored to do it again with its author. Next up was Willie’s friend Emmylou Harris, who essayed an emotion-filled take on Willie’s “Crazy,” originally made a standard by Patsy Cline. Willie completed his trilogy of antique classics by retaking the mic for an especially jazzy blues version of the Ray Price-popularized “Night Life.”

Lovett and Emmylou returned for a round-robin version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” a hit for Willie and Merle Haggard, of course, but also last performed on camera by Emmylou and Willie during ACL’s 1999 Townes Van Zandt tribute. With that, Willie graciously turned the stage over to his guests, as Lovett crooned his enigmatic country waltz “Walk Through the Bottomland” and Emmylou sang Rodney Crowell’s rueful “‘Til I Gain Control Again,” which she made a hit in the 70s. Willie then took center stage once again, spiking the energy level with spirited takes on his traditional set closers “On the Road Again” and Hank Williams’ gospel fireball “I Saw the Light,” with the legend exhorting the crowd to sing along.

McConaughey returned to induct Willie into the Hall of Fame – it’s only right that the first person to be broadcast as part of ACL be the first one to enter our Hall. “Austin is the greatest thing to happen to music,” Willie stated in his acceptance speech, and as his hosts for so many years, we can’t argue. Terry Lickona took over for McConaughey afterward to induct Bill Arhos, former KLRU station manager, program director and ACL executive producer, and the man who sparked the creation of the show, sold it to PBS as a series and was the driving force until his retirement in Season 25. Bill quipped that, while he was happy to be inducted with the first class, “It’s a little intimidating to be in the class of first inductees when three out of the four have bronze statues. I’ve got a stainless steel fingernail clipper.”

Lickona then introduced recently retired University of Texas football coach Mack Brown, who inducted the late Darrell Royal, the most successful coach in UT football history. “Coach,” as he was known by everyone, may seem to be an odd choice for a music program’s hall of fame. But Royal’s greatest passion outside of football and his family was country music, and it was his friendship with C&W masters like Merle Haggard and George Jones that got them on the show. In addition, his legendary “picking parties” at his house, featuring all manner of singers and songwriters, inspired the creation of our own songwriters specials.

Following the intermission McConaughey returned to induct Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Stevie couldn’t be there, obviously, but his brother Jimmie weighed in with a specially recorded video message, and the members of Double Trouble – bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton, keyboardist Reese Wynans – accepted their own trophies. Wynans thanked both the Austin musical community and the city’s eager audiences for embracing their sound.

Then these consummate musicians took the stage in tribute to their late leader, with various special guests subbing on guitar and vocals. Vaughan acolyte Kenny Wayne Shepherd and singer Mike Farris appropriately kicked off the set with “The House is Rockin’,” Wynans duplicating his solo from the album and Shepherd faithfully reproducing his hero’s lead break. “Look at Little Sister” followed, a tune that really took advantage of Farris’ gritty blue-eyed soul voice. The duo closed out their part with the groovy, rocking “Crossfire,” Shepherd dreamily lost in his blues dream.

Next up was Doyle Bramhall II, former ARC Angel, current Eric Clapton sideman and the son of Stevie’s songwriting partner Doyle Bramhall Sr. Doyle II began with the 12-bar blues of “Lookin’ Out the Window,” one of his father’s compositions for Stevie, before launching into the soulful ballad “Life Without You,” highlighted by a fiery solo. Doyle II ended his set with a rocking “Change It,” another Bramhall Sr. tune that became one of Double Trouble’s greatest hits.

Doyle II remained onstage as it was reset with a pedal steel guitar. That could only mean one thing: Robert Randolph. After relating that he was one of the few in his crowd to be into Stevie Ray Vaughan – indeed, he claimed that one of his dates ended early due to his incessant spinning of Double Trouble’s music in his car – Randolph blasted into “Gimme Back My Wig,” an old blues tune popularized by Chicago slide guitarist Hound Dog Taylor and later covered by Stevie. After that slidefest, Randolph led the band into a raucous take on “Pride and Joy,” perhaps Vaughan’s best-known tune, lighting it up with wild steel solos and ending on a Hendrixian flourish.

It would take a hell of a showman to equal that performance, but we had just such a person in the wings. Legendary Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy brought his stinging tone and aggressive attack to bear in full force on “Let Me Love You Baby,” one of his hits that Stevie made his own. Guy doubled his power on “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” letting his famous flamboyance take over during the ending solo and reiterating why he was such a big inspiration to Vaughan and blues and rock guitar players even now.

Such a lineup of stellar talent and songs as that contained this evening could end only one way: with a show-closing jam. Nearly everyone who’d played crowded the stage for a rendition of “Texas Flood,” the Larry Davis tune that Vaughan and Double Trouble made their signature. With vocals shared by Guy, Lovett, Willie and his son Lukas, and solos slashed by Shepherd, Lukas and Guy, it was a blues fan’s wet dream, and a fitting way to close out the festivities.

What a show. What a night. There’s more to come in celebration of ACL’s 40th year, with exciting announcements aplenty – watch this space.

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Featured Gear Blog News

Gear Blog: Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One

In honor of iconic Texas guitarist and ACL veteran Stevie Ray Vaughan’s birthday today, our intrepid FOH mixologist and gear blogger Kevin Cochran turned in this report on the instrument also known as “the Wife.” 

As far as guitars go, only a handful are as iconic (and synonymous of their players) as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number One guitar. A centerpiece of the Texas State History Museum’s Texas Music Roadtrip, this is the first time this instrument has been seen by the public since Stevie Ray’s death in 1990. Vaughan made two appearances with “the Wife” on Austin City Limits: the first time in 1983 and again in 1989.

After snapping this picture, I was chastened by security that no photography was allowed inside the exhibition. As I’ve learned in the past, it only takes once to run afoul of museum muscle and then they’ll follow you around for the rest of your stay. It’s a bit of a chore trying give your full attention to the next exhibit when the security guard  is only a few feet away giving you his full attention. In this case, it was totally worth it.

Number One is a “ragged American Stratocaster with 1959 pickups, a ’62 neck, and a ’63 body, reveals upon inspection a brutally worn finish, upside-down tremolo bar, cigarette-burnt headstock”. Vaughan acquired this instrument in 1974 from Ray Hennig’s Heart of Texas Music. When Vaughan took possession of Number One, it was already well worn. What is not as well known is that its previous owner was was another celebrated Texas musician,Christopher Cross. Hennig tells quite a story. As I’ve heard the tale, Cross wanted something “beefier” and traded the Stratocaster for a Les Paul. Stevie had already had a loaner guitar from Hennig, who was pleased to trade it for Cross’ guitar since it was in much better condition.

The original tri-colored sunburst finish has been eroded away by the rigors of years of heavy touring and Stevie’s abusive playing style. A closer inspection of the body will reveal gouged indentation of the wood above the pickguard from repeated contact of Vaughan’s guitar picks. Not just nicks and scrapes, but a deep dent that exposes the bare wood. The vibrato was swapped from the nominal set up of a right-handed player, to left-handed so that that Stevie could emulate Jimi Hendrix’s more exotic techniques. Repairs were needed quite often as Vaughan would break whammy bars and wear down frets on a regular basis. Charley Wirz and Rene Martinez are credited with most of the repairs for Stevie’s instruments.

Because of frequent refretting, the original neck became unplayable by the late ‘80’s and was swapped with the neck of another guitar in Vaughan’s stable, Scotch. Ironically, just a month before his death, a piece of stage rigging fell on Number One and snapped the neck at the headstock. It was the Scotch neck and not the original that was destroyed. Martinez acquired a replacement from Fender and Stevie was without the use of his favorite guitar for only one show. After Stevie Ray’s death, Rene replaced the new neck with Number One’s original and the guitar was given back to Stevie’s family. It now belongs to Stevie’s brother, Jimmie.

If you look closely at the photo, you can see Jimmie Vaughan’s guitar behind Number One. I didn’t get chance to grab any pictures of that guitar. It is a 1963 Stratocaster  (according to the exhibit placard) with a Schecter maple neck (sporting a Fender decal on the headstock) and a salacious girly sticker on the back of the body.

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ACL @ the Alamo News

ACL @ the Alamo: Stevie Ray Vaughan

ACL @ the Alamo returns on August 27 with a special evening featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan. First up is Stevie Ray Vaughan: A Retrospective, our season 20 episode that combines the Texas guitar slinger’s 1984 and 1990 appearances with his band Double Trouble. All your favorites are here: “Love Struck Baby,” “Texas Flood,” “Pride and Joy,” “Cold Shot,” “Crossfire” and an absolutely incandescent version of “Riviera Paradise.” While these performances have been released on DVD before, they’ve never been seen before on a big screen, and we’re excited to make that happen.

Following the Retrospective will be A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, a PBS pledge special filmed in the ACL studio that presents Stevie’s music as performed by his friends and fans, including B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Dr. John and, of course, Stevie’s brother Jimmie, who also leads the band. Far from a somber occasion, this show is a true celebration of Stevie’s musical legacy, with joyful performances. As with the Retrospective, this has been available on DVD but never shown in a theater.

As always, this screening benefits the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, a most worthy organization. You can find the skinny on tickets here. If you’re in Austin, please join us!