When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum officially declared the studio where Austin City Limits is produced a “historic rock and roll landmark” last October, it was more than just a validation of the show’s status as the longest-running music series in American television history. It gave a lot of people – artists, the media, even the staff itself – a new appreciation for the sheer impact ACL has had after 35 years. We’ve recorded hundreds and hundreds of shows with thousands upon thousands of musicians that have been seen by tens of millions of people all over the world. Some of them have even been inspired to become musicians themselves…and some of them have even found themselves performing on the same historic stage – a dream come true. The legacy and magic of the TV show have spawned a music festival (ACL Fest, every October in Austin), an upcoming book (due out in August), and now a permanent live music venue (opening in January 2011). Not bad for a li’l ole Texas music show that started on a shoestring budget in 1975.
We’re probably on our third generation of performers and viewers by now, and it’s safe to say that many of them aren’t all that familiar with ACL’s history or the scope of the music and artists we’ve showcased over the years. That’s why we’re thrilled that the Rock Hall has opened a new exhibit to tell the story of Austin City Limits, with the help of some amazing photographs, video clips from some of our best shows, and a few artifacts from the ACL closet. One of the coolest things is an old memo that was passed around among staff when they were still trying to come up with a name for the show – some of the ideas that were rejected are hilarious.
The centerpiece for the exhibit is the photos from our photographer Scott Newton, who has been shooting ACL for 33 years. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is inadequate to convey the passion, the emotion, the muse in each of Scott’s images. The challenge for a music photographer is to capture more than just a moment in time…to breathe life into that frame, to stir the imagination behind the eye of the beholder. It’s been said that Austin City Limits brings out the best in an artist, and if that’s true, Scott’s camera lens seemed to click at exactly that right moment. When you look at his photos, compare your emotion with the one that jumps out at you.
Many of the people who work on ACL have been there since the early years, if not the very beginning. It’s become our lives’ work and passion. Imagine having the opportunity to invite some of the finest musicians in the world to come play on a stage in your “back yard,” capture it on video and then share it with the world to see and hear. It’s tremendously satisfying and inspiring, to say the least.
We hope you’ll have the time to drop by our exhibit at the Rock Hall when you visit over the Spring and Summer months, and if you haven’t already done so, we hope you’ll tune in to your local PBS station and enjoy some of the new shows we’re producing right now and hopefully for years to come!
Terry Lickona will be interviewed in front of a live audience at the Museum on Wednesday, April 14 as part of the series From Songwriters to Soundmen: The People Behind the Hits, a groundbreaking Rock Hall program that shines the spotlight on the people whose contributions to the rock and roll art form are often as powerful as those of the artists themselves. Questions will be taken from the audience at the end of the interview. Click here for details.
View a photo slideshow of performances from ACL-TV.