Willie Nelson was the first person to be inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame on Saturday. Actor Matthew McConaughey, who is a Texas native like Nelson, was there to present him with the honor. Also there, to perform with Willie Nelson, were Lyle Lovett, EmmyLou Harris, and Blues musicians Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Buddy Guy.
Besides being the first person to be inducted into the Austin City Limits (ACL) Hall of Fame, Willie Nelson, who will turn 81 on Tuesday, was also the first musician to appear on the ACL stage in 1974.
Having a renowned country music performer like Willie Nelson appear and perform on the first episode of Austin City Limits helped the show to attract other famous musicians, and become a popular series showcasing some of the most famous musicians of several genres.
Willie Nelson is a beloved figure in Austin. He has a street named after him, and there is even an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of the “Always On My Mind Singer” in downtown Austin.
When Willie Nelson gave a speech at his inauguration into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, he said the honor “means a lot,” and he called Austin “the music capital of the world.”
The inaugural Austin City Limits Hall of Fame ceremony was fittingly held not at ACL’s new 2,000-seat downtown building, but at he University of Texas in the show’s original smaller, and more intimate soundstage.
Songs that Lyle Lovett and EmmyLou Harris performed with Willie Nelson included many of Nelson’s hits, such as “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “On the Road Again.” Blues rockers Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Buddy Guy ended the show performing a rousing rendition of “Texas Flood” with Willie Nelson. On July 13, Nelson will perform in Sterling Heights at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater.
McConaughey stated that “There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson,” and that could very well have been true if the “Red Headed Stranger” had not performed on the first show. What has become the longest-running television music program in the U.S. might not have gone further than one season. ACL will begin its 40th season this fall.
Just last month, Matthew McConaughey celebrated a first, of sorts, when he won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey’s first major role was in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused, which was set in Austin, so the city has a special place in his heart.
Other musician inducted into the inaugural Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. besides them, tow other people were inducted for their contributions to getting Austin City Limits off to a running start: former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal and ACL producer Bill Arhos.
Coach Darrell Royal served as inspiration for Austin City limits with the “pickin’ parties” he often held with guitarists at his house following football games. Arhos was inducted for having been the producer of ACL for several decades.
As if being inducted into the inaugural class of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame wasn’t enough, on Monday, right before Willie Nelson turns 81 on Tuesday, he will be receiving a fifth-degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, a Korean martial art.
The country musician has always participated in sports, running track, pole vaulting, playing shortstop, and participating in football, before he got involved with martial arts several decades ago when he first arrived in Nashville, Tennessee.
Austin City Limits is a venerable TV series and it was only fitting that the first performer that the show inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame on Saturday was Willie Nelson, the very first musician to perform on the show.
Written by: Douglas Cobb