These days, the words Austin City Limits may be associated more with a relatively new annual music festival  than a revered public broadcasting program, but the roots of this world-renowned entity run deep in Austin’s  musical heritage. From the time the twangy opening chords of the show’s original theme song, Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues,” hit the airwaves in 1976 (well before MTV), it was evident the program was dedicated to exposing a new brand of quality roots-rock music.
Willie Nelson was an early regular guest, and each season continued the tradition of showcasing worthy country, blues, and folk to rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, and zydeco artists that weren’t getting the radio airplay they deserved.
The show was inspired by Austin’s  burgeoning live music scene in the early ’70s, and it has since featured more than 500 regional and internationally acclaimed artists on its stage. Memorable performances include such diverse acts as Beck, B. B. King, the Pixies, Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, Wilco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Flaming Lips, Ray Charles, Leonard Cohen, and Coldplay.
The show is taped in a studio on the University of Texas  campus, with a stage containing fake trees and a backdrop of the city skyline. Not surprisingly, many viewers assume the show is taped outside, and are surprised to learn the stage is located on the sixth floor of UT’s communications building. The skyline set debuted in 1982 and has remained the series’ backdrop ever since.
Tickets for the show are extremely hard to come by, since the small studio can only accommodate a few hundred people, and most of them receive tickets through connections to the TV station. However, a very limited number of tickets may be available for tapings. Visit the station’s website at www.klru.org  for information about upcoming shows or call 512/475-9077 for ticket information. Tickets are typically given away through a radio promotion at a local business and are often gone within five minutes of the announced giveaway time.