Austin City Limits
Austin City Limits is the longest-running music series in American television history. Watched by millions of viewers each week, the show features a mix of established artists and rising stars performing live in front of a studio audience.
The show’s origins date back to 1974, when the PBS affiliate KLRU-TV in Austin, Texas, had moved into a new production facility on the campus of the University of Texas and was looking for a way to create a nationally broadcast PBS show. Bill Arhos, Paul Bosner and Bruce Scafe came up with the idea of doing a show that would focus on Austin’s burgeoning music scene. At the time, the Austin scene featured performers like B.W. Stevenson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Doug Sahm who mixed country and folk with the trappings of rock and roll and hippy idealism. After considering many names for the program, the original pilot for Austin City Limits was recorded with Willie Nelson in October 1974. It was an instant success, and the following year PBS broadcast the first full season.
Under the leadership of Terry Lickona, who become the show’s producer during its fourth season, Austin City Limits has evolved and expanded its musical menu. The show has featured legends Ray Charles, Etta James and Merle Haggard, alternative rockers My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Coldplay, and rap artist Mos Def and Latin superstar Juanes. ACL has also inspired an annual music festival, which is held every fall in Austin and features an eclectic mix of performers. ACL moved to its new home in ACL Live at the Moody Theater in 2011, with an inaugural taping of Steve Miller Band.
Now in its 39th season, Austin City Limits is the only television program to ever receive the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest award for artistic excellence. In 2011 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum declared the show’s original Studio 6A and the Moody Theater rock and roll landmarks. In 2012, ACL received a rare institutional Peabody Award for excellence and outstanding achievement.