40 Years of ACL


Musical Notes — Austin City Limits

Voiceover by Lawrence Standifer Stevens / Written by Joseph E. Casanova



A PBS institution for the last 40 years, Austin City Limits has introduced fans to different genres of music ranging from bluegrass to indie rock to Tejano.

ACL TV is the longest running music series in US television history, being launched in 1975 by KLRU and broadcast on public television.

According to its website, the program’s famous music festival has hosted over 130 artists and 225,000 fans at Zilker Park every year since 2002.

Bob Wills’ Original Texas Playboys performed on the premiere in 1976 with famed Texas group Asleep at the Wheel. Country legend Willie Nelson launched the pilot just the year before.

ACL has showcased several statewide artists ranging from native blues chanteuse Marcia Ball to Grammy winning Little Joe y la Familia. . . to guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

I personally enjoyed watching alternative bands and indie favorites such as Arcane Fire, Florence and the Machine and Esperanza Spalding.

Even Latin brother/sister act Jesse y Joy and flamenco duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have hit the stage a time or two. 

One of the more memorable shows featured country queen Miranda Lambert and Oscar winner Jeff Bridges in 2011. Lambert captivated the audience with the reflective “The House that Made Me” while Bridges sang hits from the Crazy Heart movie soundtrack including Somebody Else and What a Little Bit of Love Can Do.

I recently caught reruns with British crooners Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. Smith, who won four Grammies in 2015 , made the crowd swoon with “Stay With Me” and “I’m Not the Only One.” Sheeran impressed with his top five hit “Thinking Out Loud.”

If you love music and learn to expect the unexpected, then you know you’ve reached the Austin City Limits.