As a student at The University of Texas in the 1980s, I’d wrangle my way into tapings of PBS’s Austin City Limits thanks to a professor who was also the PBS station manager where all ACL shows were taped in a crowded studio on the 6th floor of the College of Communications Building.
I say “were taped” because last week, after 36 years, the longest running music series in television history said goodbye to Studio 6A with a grand performance by one of the show’s favorites, Lyle Lovett, whose first appearance was as a backup singer to Nanci Griffith in 1985. The series will start the 2011 season in the new—and much roomier—Austin City Limits LIVE at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin.
It’s just one more chapter in Austin City Limits history; earlier this year, the only TV show to receive the National Medal of the Arts also received special recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with its own space in the revered museum. ACL also spawned the Austin City Limits Music Festival, one of the biggest and best music festivals in the country.
What started out on October 17, 1974 as a way to showcase Texas musicians has today become an outlet for a multitude of genres with over 800 performers like Ray Charles, Robert Plant, Sufjan Stevens, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Roy Orbison, Coldplay, Johnny Cash, Wilco, Mos Def, The Flaming Lips, The Raconteurs, Allen Toussaint, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., Van Morrison and Willie Nelson, just to name a handful.
Making his 12th appearance on the show, Lovett captivated the packed house with his “large band,” one of most talented group of musicians to ever grace the 6A stage, and ended the show with his appropriately titled “Closing Time”. The episode will air January 2011.
Producer Terry Lickona acknowledged Ray Benson whose band Asleep At the Wheel performed in the first episode of Austin City Limits after the Willie Nelson pilot. With the traditional free beer and a request to “bring on the dogs and ponies,” Benson made a toast to the studio’s last ACL performance. As the show ended, with the entire crew joining Lovett on stage, Lickona said it best: “To be continued.”