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R.I.P. Bill Arhos, founder of Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits

As reported by Austin television station KLRU and The New York Times, Bill Arhos, the creator of long-running music show Austin City Limits, has died from heart disease. He was 80.

Arhos was born in Teague, Texas in 1934, and though he earned a master’s degree in education from Texas A&M, he always wanted to be part of the music scene. The New York Times says he was “a frustrated guitarist,” and when Austin’s local PBS affiliate decided it wanted to start a show about music, Arhos leapt at the chance to—as a former colleague said—“vicariously…live a lot of his musical fantasies.” Arhos then contacted Willie Nelson and filmed a pilot for what would eventually become Austin City Limits for $7,000. PBS picked up the pilot in 1975 and aired it as part of one of the network’s very first televised fundraising drives.


Evidently, the pilot was a hit, because Austin City Limits has been on PBS networks ever since. The show was originally conceived as a way to introduce America to “redneck rock” and more progressive country acts, but it later expanded to include blues and (non-redneck) rock bands. Now everybody from Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran to Radiohead and Pearl Jam have spent a Saturday night on the Austin City Limits stage.

Arhos served on the boards of both PBS and the Country Music Association, and he was an executive producer of Austin City Limits from 1975 until he retired in 1999. Arhos and his show are credited with helping Austin attain its status as the “Live Music Capital Of The World,” a title that’s hard to dispute when you consider how few cities can claim they’ve had a live music show on TV for the past 40 years.

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