Rock Hall Designates Austin City Limits as an Official Rock and Roll Landmark

Thursday, October 8: 4:24 p.m.
Dr. Lauren Onkey, vice president of education and public programs at the Rock Hall

second photo caption: ACL was designated a rock and roll landmark on October 1, 2009.

The Rock Hall’s Landmark Series designates historic rock and roll landmarks around the United States that are essential to tell the story of rock and roll music.

There are currently nine sites including the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles where the Doors were resident performers; King Records in Cincinnati, a prominent American record label started in the 40s, The Crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi and the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa . Five sites are located in the Cleveland area and include Brooklyn High School, the location Elvis played his first concert north of the Mason-Dixon line and WJW Radio, home to Deejay Alan Freed who popularized the term “rock and roll.”

On Friday, October 2nd, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum made its 10th Landmark dedication at the studio of Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas. Now in its 35th year, the show is the longest-running music program on television. A number of Rock Hall staff traveled to Austin for the dedication.

You can see footage of the landmark dedication by clicking here.

ACL has presented a diverse and original array of artists over the years, from the Austin-based “cosmic cowboy” musicians to legends of country and rock and roll to indie bands. Thirty-two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees have taped episodes of ACL, including early Influences the Texas Playboys and Bill Monroe, rock and roll pioneers Ruth Brown, Fats Domino, and Roy Orbison and recent inductees R.E.M., Elvis Costello, and David Byrne.

As part of the dedication, we hosted two education panels that gave audiences an insider’s view of the show. The panels were similar to the public programs we run here at the Museum like Songwriters to Soundmen and the Legends series. The first was with ACL staff: executive Producer Terry Lickona, producer Jeff Peterson, video director Gary Menotti, audio director David Hough, and associate producers Leslie Nichols and Emily Joyce. The panelists had a combined 150 years experience on ACL! They described their production philosophy: to create an exciting, original live show at the ACL studio with fantastic sound and simple staging and to convey the energy of that show to a television audience.

Country singer Vince Gill once said that ACL “is hip because they let musicians be musicians.” The philosophy of the show is not to direct a performance, but to capture it. Artists perform a set rather than just a song or two, and the performance is edited down later. Artists are even given the option of mixing their own sound for the show.

The effect on the guests on our second panel–Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks and Alejandro Escovedo was obvious–they have each performed on ACL three times. All three artists draw on roots music to create songs that break down the genres and niche markets that we sometimes put on music.  Maguire and Robison remembered how they ended their 2006 Accidents and Accusations tour with an ACL taping that was “like coming home.” Escovedo said that he didn’t like doing television, but ACL felt like doing a club show. He performed the first theatrical piece put on by ACL, a production of  By the Hand of the Father, which follows the story of a Mexican-American father through song and spoken word..

Jim Henke, the Rock Hall’s Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs, provided context and historical perspective to the panel. As Jim pointed out, not only is ACL unique among other rock and roll shows because of the range of the music presented, but also because it emphasizes live performance. And no other music show has lasted so long and through so many changes in contemporary music.

Congratulations to Austin City Limits and thanks for the Texas hospitality. We look forward to future collaborations—look for an ACL photo exhibit and related public programming in 2010.


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