Willie Nelson returns to Austin City Limits, show to air in January 2019

photo:  Scott Newton

by:  Stephen L. Betts

In the 44-year history of Austin City Limits, no artist has personified the music series’ eclectic, freewheeling spirit more fully than Willie Nelson. Having launched the pilot episode of the long-running PBS show with a performance in the KLRN (now KLRU) studio on the University of Texas campus in 1974, Nelson has since appeared on the series 17 times.

On November 19th, the Texas-born legend returns to Austin City Limits for an 18th time. Set to air in January, during the second half of ACL‘s current season, the appearance will mark Nelson’s first taping of a full episode in nine years. Since that time, he has participated in a pair of shows celebrating the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, including during his own induction with the first-ever class in 2014. The performance will also be live-streamed via the ACL-TV YouTube channel.

By the time of his first appearance on that now-historic pilot episode, Nelson had triumphed at his first Fourth of July Picnic, held on a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, in 1973. He had also earned raves for his Phases and Stages LP, a concept album about divorce told from the male and female perspective, and was about to release the even more successful concept album, Red Headed Stranger. In the four decades that followed, he has explored a wide spectrum of musical material from the Great American Songbook, jazz and reggae, to gospel and classic country. His most recent album, My Way, released in September, celebrates the music of his longtime friend and fellow icon, Frank Sinatra.

Austin City Limits airs Saturday night on most PBS stations. On November 10th, Nelson’s son, Lukas, and his band, Promise of the Real, will appear on an episode which also features Kacey Musgraves. Check local listings in your area for additional information.


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