Austin City Limits isn't merely a spot on a map; it's the award-winning television series that helped redefine the history of a town that has over the past four decades become one of America's best showcases for live music. This weekend, coinciding with the beginning of the annual Austin City Limits music festival, the long-running PBS series opens its 41st season with musical highlights and tributes from the 2015 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame ceremony, which was held June 18th.
Set to air on Saturday, October 3rd, at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS, the all-star Austin City Limits Hall of Fame special is hosted by Dwight Yoakam and features performances by Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Jason Isbell, Patty Loveless, Gillian Welch, Laura Marling and many more. The 2015 ACL Hall of Fame honorees feted during the hour-long special are iconic musicians Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez, Loretta Lynn and Townes Van Zandt.
One of the many highlights of the special is the all-star grand finale in which the entire cast of world-class musicians pays tribute to Van Zandt, performing his classic, "White Freight Liner Blues." First recorded by Van Zandt in 1973 for a live two-disc set that wouldn't be officially released until 1977, the song has since been covered dozens of times by artists including Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and New Grass Revival.
Other highlights of the season premiere include the show-opening tribute to Loretta Lynn, who first appeared on ACL in 1983. Patty Loveless and Vince Gill team up for "After the Fire Is Gone," one of Lynn's memorable duets with the legendary Conway Twitty. To honor his friend and hero, Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett performs the first song Clark ever wrote, "Step Inside This House," with Jason Isbell performing the classic "Desperados Waiting for a Train."
Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jiménez can't resist a cameo appearance during his tribute, which features Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and conjunto masters Los Texmaniacs. Townes Van Zandt, who appeared on the long-running show's debut season in 1975, is also paid tribute with an acoustic performance from Gillian Welch and British singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Vince Gill returns to honor Asleep at the Wheel, who performed on the very first episode of Austin City Limits in 1975. Together they offer up the classic Western swing tune, "Take Me Back to Tulsa."
"We created our own Hall of Fame as part of our 40th anniversary last year to recognize and celebrate those artists who were there in the beginning and helped make Austin City Limits what it is today," ACL executive producer Terry Lickona writes in a statement. "The annual event is a unique showcase for some amazing performances and emotional moments, and we're thrilled to be able to capture it all to bring to our fans at home."
The first half of Season 41 of Austin City Limits will also feature Cassandra Wilson paying tribute to the music of Billie Holiday (October 10th), Sturgill Simpson and Asleep at the Wheel (October 17th), Don Henley (his ACL debut, October 24th), Gary Clark Jr. and Courtney Barnett (October 31st), TV on the Radio and the War on Drugs (November 7th), James Taylor (his ACL debut, November 14th) and ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2015 (November 21st). Seven more episodes will air beginning in January 2016, with details to be revealed at a later date. More information about the history of the series and its upcoming episodes is available at the official Austin City Limits website.