The legendary history of Austin City Limits: From the roots to the headliners

Austin City Limits started with Willie Nelson, and it has grown to become a signature musical...
Austin City Limits started with Willie Nelson, and it has grown to become a signature musical event.(Provded by Circle)
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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(Circle) - Austin City Limits is more than just a television show or a music festival; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has left an undeniable mark on the world of music and entertainment.

How It Began

Austin City Limits began in 1974 and is the longest-running music program on American television. It was created by Bill Arhos, Bruce Scafe and Paul Bosner with the intention of showcasing the musical talent flourishing in Austin, Texas. In the 1970s, Austin was already known for its vibrant music scene, nurturing genres ranging from country and blues to rock and folk. ACL aimed to capture this musical diversity for a national audience.

A Star-Studded Guest List

Austin City Limits has featured an astonishing array of artists. Willie Nelson’s iconic pilot episode set the stage, and the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles soon followed. The show has never shied away from breaking genre barriers.

The Festival Connection

In 2002, the Austin City Limits Music Festival was launched, becoming one of the country’s premier music festivals. Held in Austin’s Zilker Park, the festival draws in music lovers from all corners of the globe. It features a diverse lineup of artists across multiple genres, making it an extension of the show’s commitment to showcasing musical diversity.

ACL Today

With new seasons and episodes being produced regularly from The Moody Theater in downtown Austin, Austin City Limits remains a vital platform for both seasoned performers and emerging talents to showcase their artistry. The show’s enduring appeal lies in its authenticity and dedication to the music itself.

Austin City Limits: Country

Now you can relive some of the most iconic Austin City Limits performances on Circle Network’s series “Austin City Limits: Country” hosted by Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson! Tune in Wednesday nights at 10/9 p.m. CT on Circle Network to catch throwback performances from Wille Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette, Kris Kristofferson, and many more!

Learn how to watch at

Download the new Circle Now app to stream the entire first season on-demand for free or watch right here.

Originally appeared on Circle All Access.