By Dany Recio
Austin City Limits officially celebrated 40 years broadcasting on October 14 th. It began as the brain child of Bill Arhos the program-director of K-L-R-U the PBS affiliate of Austin. He collaborated with producer Paul Bosner and director Bruce Scafe. P-B-S wanted more original programming from its affiliates. Arhos, inspired by Jan Reid’s book The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock; which covered the progressive country scene, helped create the idea for a t-v program that would highlight Austin’s diverse music scene. They filmed their pilot on October 12th, 1974; with the, then not-so-iconic, Willie Nelson. The show did face some initial trouble but Arhos pushed the show to executives who were familiar with shows like Sesame Street and Masterpiece Theatre and just five minutes before the network deadline Arhos was picked up by five stations. Taping began in 1975 with Asleep at the Wheel and Bob Will’s Original Texas Playboys. The name was inspired by Bosners weekly commute from Dallas to Austin where he read “Now entering Austin City Limits.”
The Show became a mainstay for many country, blues, and rock during its first 20 years. It featured performances from the likes of Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, Stevie Ray Vaugh and B.B. King. By the 1990’s a declining PBS budget forced Austin City Limits to raise a quarter of its own budget. They sought help from national sponsors. They began expanding their sound more but still did not stray too far from country, rock and blues. The early 2000’s is when A-C-L truly expanded its horizons and began to feature jazz, hip-hop, Latin music and other genres. Each season can be seen as an overview of the years exceptional performers.
The show continues to provide amazing performances from today’s greatest artists. It has lent its name to one of the nation’s largest music festivals A-C-L; which in its 11th year has grown to host some of the biggest acts in music and is now spread across two weekends. The show has also been immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is the only television show to win the Presidential Medal of the Arts. The show has been a tradition in music; helping chronicle the evolution of music over the last 40 years. It has surely made an impact in music as well as history.