Artists Who Have Played at Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits is the infamous American TV music program based in Austin, Texas. The three men behind this program were Bill Arhos, Bruce Scafe, and Paul Bosner. Austin City Limits is a TV show produced by a PBS member station, Austin PBS, formerly known as KLRU. This TV program is shown on several PBS stations all around the US. 

The Austin City Limits has been around for several decades and were awarded for many years of showing and preserving different American musical genres. Austin became well known as the “Live Music Capital of the World through this TV program.” It received many awards, such as the National Medal of Arts in 2003 and the 2011 Peabody Award, a rare institutional award. 

On January 2, 1975, Austin City Limits aired its first episode, which was loved by many. What the audience loves the most about this TV show is that it is not only a musical variety show. This TV program also involves glitz and sophisticated production and gives people an excellent laugh. 

At first, they only created this TV program to promote and publicize the music of Texas and its different artists. However, as time went by, Austin City Limits evolved to be a huge platform for all musical artists from different parts of the world who have different genres and music styles. This gave Austin, Texas the title “Live Music Capital of the World.”

On Austin City Limits’ first show, they featured a country artist from Austin, Willie Nelson, and his performance became one of the most iconic performances in ACL. This TV program has a very excellent pick in artists and performers. That is why everyone loved every show Austin City Limits produces. 

For several decades of airing live, this TV program already promoted many artists, such as the iconic band Radiohead and Oasis. They showcase the talents of already famous musical artists and also the up-and-coming performers, introducing the people to these superstars in the making.

This legendary musical variety show gives a platform to artists who want to share their stories and inspire people through their music. Austin City Limits provides viewers a unique opportunity to experience the music of these performers in such an intimate setting. 

Due to its popularity, Austin City Limits already had several TV specials, ACL Hall of Fame, and the crowd’s long-awaited Austin City Limits Music Festival. People encountered unexpected artists’ collaborations, once-in-a-lifetime music performances, and many artists’ debuts. Austin is, indeed, the music capital of the world. 

Now, here are some artists who have played at Austin City Limits.

Willie Nelson


First on the list is Willie Nelson, the first performer of Austin City Limits in 1975. Willie Nelson is an artist from Texas known for his country music. If you visit ACL’s studio in Downtown Austin, Texas, you will see Willie Nelson’s bronze statue.

Nelson’s performance was not supposed to be the first to be aired in ACL. Originally, the first episode was supposed to feature BW Stevenson, a pop-country singer from Texas. As you all know, ACL is pre-recorded, and BW Stevenson’s recording for their first episode was unusable, so they used the recording of Willie Nelson’s performance instead. Nevertheless, the first episode of ACL aired on TV was iconic. 

John Prine

John Prine was first showcased in Austin City Limits in 1978 – and this performance was the first of many. He was a regular performer in this musical TV show. During his 1978 performance, Willie Nelson and Steve Goodman also made their appearance. 

According to John Prine, ACL was such an excellent place to be in, and it is extremely difficult to leave this TV program. In June 2018, Prine performed his eighth performance in Austin City Limits, where he expressed how much he loved to keep performing on the show.

In October 2020, ACL made an hour-long tribute to John Prine, who died from COVID-19 last April 2020. The tribute episode showcased different cuts from different performances by John Prine during the four-decade airtime of Austin City Limits. 

George Strait


George Strait first performed on the show in 1982, just after he released his debut single called Unwound. Like many other artists, this isn’t the only time Strait appeared on ACL. In 1984, George Strait made his second appearance on the show and performed several of his greatest hits. 

Only this October 2021, George Strait had his first-ever performance for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. He performed 29 songs, including his top hits from Billboard’s country chart and some song covers from different artists. 

Alison Krauss & Union Station

Alison Krauss and Union Station first appeared in Austin City Limits in 1992, where they performed the song “Lose Again.” They came back for their second appearance in 1995 and shared an episode with Merle Haggard. In 2000, Alison Krauss performed again on the ACL stage, along with the American singer Trisha Yearwood. After that, the bluegrass musical artists also appeared in one ACL episode in 2002 and another one in 2005.

On September 17, 2011, Alison Krauss and her band Union Station performed in the Austin City Limits 10th year Music Festival in Zilker Park. They performed music of different genres, including bluegrass, country, and Americana genres, which were enjoyed by thousands of people who attended the music festival.

Jason Isbell

In 2013, Jason Isbell, well-known for being a solo artist, had his first performance in Austin City Limits – this was after the release of Southeastern, his successful solo album. After that, he returned to the show in 2018 and performed with his band called the 400 Unit. The amazing thing about this performance is that Jason Isbell performed with his wife, Amanda Shires, one of the 400 Unit’s members. 

Jason Isbell’s recent performance for ACL was during ACL’s 7th Annual Hall of Fame Honors. He was the opening act for ACL’s first honoree, the iconic singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. 

Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton

In 2017, Chris Stapleton performed for the final episode of Austin City Limits’ 43rd season, aired in 2018. It was the first time he and his crack band appeared on the ACL’s stage. He also performed with his wife, Morgane Stapleton, and played several songs, including “Might As Well Get Stoned” and “Nobody to Blame,” wherein he showcased his excellent guitar skills.