Over the weekend, television’s longest running music program– Austin City Limits, celebrated the first induction ceremony for the new Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. ACL returned to its original home at PBS’s KLRU Studio 6A Saturday evening to honor those who have left their mark on the show. The event featured more than a few famous faces.
Asked to dress Austin chic, the invitation-only crowd was, well, classically Austin. Plenty of boots, cowboy hats and jeans. Many of the women turned out in heels and dresses. But arguably the best-dressed man in attendance was Lyle Lovett – in his signature suit and tie.
Lovett was there to honor Willie Nelson who was ACL’s first-ever inductee into the Hall of Fame.
Before receiving his award, The Red Headed Stranger performed a medley of songs on the shows original stage with its signature, though now somewhat dated Austin city skyline. He was joined at times by Lovett- and Emmy Lou Harris. The three swapped vocals and harmonized on famous Country songs such as “Crazy,” “Pancho and Lefty,” and of course: “On The Road Again.”
Raspy-voiced and approaching his 81st birthday, Willie didn’t miss a lick or a note, making it hard to believe there was a time when he wasn’t an American icon. He helped launch the series in October of 1974, as the show's first performer- and he continues to return as their most frequent performer.
“It’s a great honor,” Nelson said. “I’ve played Austin City Limits- I think 25 times over that 40 years, I played the first one, and I’ve played 24 for more, I enjoy playing it.
Before the show, Willie and I talked on his bus. It’s different than legend would have you believe. Quiet and calm, he sat- drinking tea. Though hints of a wilder side weren’t hard to find. When asked to recall his favorite memory performing in Austin, Nelson laughed, “I don’t remember, I barely remember what I had for breakfast.”
Also inducted Saturday were the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble and iconic Texas football coach, Daryl Royal. Royal was a huge music fan whose post-game musical gatherings helped inspire ACL- and helped get acts such as Merle Haggard and George Jones to appear on the show. Also inducted was show creator Bill Arhos, who joked it was intimidating to be in the group of four, where three have larger-than-life bronze statues across town.
Matthew McConaughey and Mac Brown presented. And a parade of respected musicians took the stage when it came time for the Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double trouble tribute.
Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Robert Randolph, Mike Farris and Doyle Bramhall II all performed with Double Trouble’s Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton and Reese Wynans. Then, the biggest treat of the night: everyone, including Willie and Lyle, joined together for a rendition of Stevie Ray’s “Texas Flood.”
The Hall of Fame Awards will be aired later this fall on KLRU as part of ACL’s 40th anniversary.