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MOMSR interview with David Hough, Audio Director for Austin City Limits

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Some information about Austin City Limits' Production

David Hough, audio Director Austin City Limits

David Hough during MOMSR interview

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David Hough during MOMSR interview

In 1974, Willie added television to his Austin portfolio when he agreed to perform in front of cameras at Studio 6A on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin for KLRN-TV (now KRLU-TV), the Public Broadcasting Service television channel serving San Antonio and Austin. KLRN program director Bill Arhos, producer Paul Bosner, and director Bruce Scafe secured grant money to film a pilot for a live music series focusing on original Texas music. The pilot led to the first broadcast of Austin City Limits in 1976. The series is the longest running music program on American television.Texas State Historical Association

The Founding of ACL
By Talor Schaddelee
If you were to say that Austin City Limits is the longest-running live music series in television history, you would be mistaken. ACL's original Executive Producer, and one of the men credited with its creation, Bill Arhos would modestly point out that it is in fact the second longest-running live music show following the Boston Pops.

Still, one cannot help but marvel at ACL's impressive 33-year-old history and even Arhos would admit, "That's an extremely old age for a television series."

It is an old TV series, which could never have been created had it not been for the budding "progressive country" or "red neck rock" music of 1970's Austin combined with the creative minds of Bruce Scafe, Paul Bosner and Bill Arhos.

Arhos began as an intern at the Austin PBS affiliate, KLRN-TV (now KLRU) in 1962. He worked his way up. In the early 1970's, Arhos, now program manager, was casting about for a new show that could originate in Austin. The station had just built Studio 6A in UT's Communications Building A, and Arhos says they needed to "activate the facility." The new facility came just as PBS started an initiative that allowed smaller local affiliates to compete with their programming, if they got enough stations around the country to agree to air those shows, says Arhos.

"We missed the first market in 1974. In 74' we were talking about what to do for 75'. [Paul] Bosner was commuting to Dallas so at night he'd go -he was pretty esoteric -he'd go to movies at the Dobie Mall and he started going to Armadillo World Headquarters to listen to music," says Arhos.

KLRN Producer Paul Bosner was a lot more conversant about the local music scene than Arhos was. Bosner had read Jan Reid's 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, which detailed Austin's new country/rock music sound.

"He [Bosner] and Bruce [Scafe] came in one day and said, 'Why don't we do a music series?' And he described what was going on and he gave me that book," says Arhos who, after reading the book, decided to write a proposal for the series.

KLRN Director Bruce Scafe, an avid jazz musician then and now, says that he was only a little familiar with the Austin music scene. Nevertheless, he was excited about the idea of doing a live music program and says the he knew Studio 6A would be great for music production.

Bruce Scafe is an avid jazz musician and one of the founders of ACL.

Before coming to KLRN in 1974, Scafe had directed and produced live programs. One of those was a TV show called The Session, a weekly half-hour music program that featured bands such as REO Speedwagon and Billy Joel. Bosner also had experience working with live programs as a cameraman for CBS, says Arhos.

Arhos says he managed to get $13,000 in pilot money from PBS. Ultimately, he "messed up" on writing the proposal, so they took away $6,000.

"So we did the Willie Nelson pilot for $7,000


Radio - TV Journal SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2008

Austin City Limits - Larry Miller
In 1973, Karen and I left the cozy environment of Oklahoma State University, where I'd been teaching broadcast news courses and serving as News Director for KOSU, the public radio station licensed to the university.

Our destination was Austin, Texas, about which we knew…….nothing. It was the capitol city, and the University of Texas was located there. Beyond that, I suspect we might have perceived that "Hook 'em Horns" was an obscene gesture. I was reminded of our stint in Austin when I read about my friend Terry Lickona winning the Lifetime Achievement Award last week in Nashville at the Americana Music Association awards gathering.

My official job title in Austin was Director of News and Public Affairs for the University of Texas Communications Center; in broadcasting parlance, I was the News Director for KLRN-TV and KUT-FM. In those days, KLRN was licensed to the Southwest Texas Public Broadcasting Council and served both San Antonio and Austin from a transmitter near New Braunfels. Although KLRN had studios in San Antonio, the station was headquartered in Austin. Within months after my arrival, KLRN-TV and KUT-FM moved from the old Chemistry building at UT to a brand spankin' new facility on Guadalupe Street, shown at left some 30 years after I was there, but apparently still holding up fairly well.

Our leader in those days was Bob Schenkkan, whose early contributions to public television are pretty well documented. Bob did a lot of traveling in the 1970s, and I seldom saw or visited with him. Day-to-day operations were left to Station Manager Harvey Herbst, with whom I got along just fine. Harvey was not a favorite with many at KLRN/KUT, but I always found him fair and supportive.

Perhaps in another posting I can share stories about the many colorful and talented people I came to know in Austin, including Cactus Pryor, Cyndi Allen, Larry White, Tom Dvorak, Dick Rizzo, Bink Williams, Bob Buckalew, Bruce Scafe, and Charles Akins, among others. This posting focuses upon the Austin environment – particularly the sounds that were captured as a part of Austin City Limits.

First, Karen and I were taken by the beauty of the Austin area. The lakes and nearby "Hill Country" afforded two Nebraska kids an opportunity to see aspects of the Lone Star state of which we were unaware. Great restaurants were plentiful. Zilker Park was gorgeous. And then there's the music.

Karen and I occasionally joined friends in weekend forays to downtown Austin to take in the live performances of a wide array of musicians. To this day, I don't recall the names of the places or artists, but I do remember that Austin was rich with a diversity of talented country musicians.

Paul Bosner, Bruce Scafe, and Billy Arhos were the KLRN colleagues who had an big itch for producing a live country and western music program. And they made it happen.

While I was responsible for producing and anchoring a nightly 30-minute news and public affairs program in one of our fourth floor studios, Austin City Limits was produced in one of the two massive 6th floor studios. The other 6th floor studio was reserved for production of a children's bi-lingual program called Carrascolendas, which had been the recipient of major federal grants obtained under the leadership of Ida Barrera.

One of my most vivid recollections of Austin City Limits had to do with riding the elevators after musicians had just gone up to their studio. I always thought that the sweet aroma left behind in the elevator was a new blend of pipe tobacco; I think one of the news staff suggested that perhaps I'd never smelled quafts of marijuana. I couldn't be absolutely certain, of course, but the story would be consistent with what I knew about many of the musicians. While I know that Paul, Billy and others had high hopes for Austin City Limits, few of us felt it would achieve the success that had been enjoyed by Carrascolendas. Little did we know that it would become a staple performance broadcast for PBS and retain a strong following around the nation three decades after it was launched!

By late 1974, we were expanding our News and Public Affairs staff, and I hired a "walk-on" candidate from New York named Terry Lickona. I thought he could help us breathe life into the rather stagnant public affairs programming on KUT-FM. Terry was a thoughtful, low-key, but thorough producer with an excellent on-air radio presence. He did a fine job. But I was surprised a few months later when he approached me about moving into television. There were some sticky personnel issues that made him uncomfortable, and he wanted out of radio. We made the switch, and Terry became a regular part of our Newsroom Nine evening television broadcast.

In the mid-1970s, we decided to examine key current issues through a different format. It was a live courtroom-style television program based upon an old WGBH Boston series called The Advocates. Local Austin Judge Mary Pearl Williams was moderator. Our first program – and I don't remember others – was a real challenge. One of our "advocates" was the fiery Mayor of Austin, Jeff Friedman. Minutes before the program was to go live, Friedman contested the ground rules for the program and threatened to walk out. Terry interceded. My recollection is that – with the help of Mary Pearl Williams – the program was saved.

Within two years after Karen and I left Austin, Terry became a part of the Austin City Limits staff, and eventually took over as Producer, a role he has held ever since. ACL holds something of a record in American television as the longest-running musical performance program series, and Terry Lickona has produced over 800 of those programs.

Terry and I have crossed paths a few times over the years. In the late 1990s, I invited him to Jackson, Mississippi for a visit. I was Executive Director for the statewide public broadcasting network and was interested in our producing a pilot performance program on the Blues, which had its birth in the Mississippi delta. Terry had the experience with ACL and could have given this initiative a real boost. My enthusiasm for the project was not shared by some of my senior managers, so the project never got launched. I still think we missed a real opportunity, and I regret that I didn't push harder to make it happen.

I've enjoyed watching Terry Lickona's career blossom. During the few years I worked with Terry in Austin, I gained a real appreciation for his professionalism, and I've been not at all surprised by his success. Congratulations, Terry, on the Lifetime Achievement Award with the AMA. Well done

Radio-TV Journal - September 2008 - Larry Miller


November 2002

'ACL' Creator Speaks Up

Dear Mr. Black:

This is in response to the letter "'ACL': The True Story," published here September 27. My daughter Sara, upset to see me excluded as one of the creators of Austin City Limits, wrote the letter.

Since no one else has responded (neither former nor current ACL staff members), I feel I must, on the premise that if you don't blow your own horn once in a while, somebody will use it for a spittoon!

Although it's true that Bill Arhos secured the funding for the pilot and later the series, did he create it? The answer is no, because Paul Bosner and I created it. Arhos wrote our proposal and became our executive producer.

The idea was to chronicle the new music scene growing in and around Austin in the mid-Seventies. Paul would produce it. I would direct it. Between us we came up with the format. Paul designed the opening. Together we designed the set. Paul named the show. I came up with the logo. Incidentally, I decided on "London Homesick Blues" as the theme song for the second season on.

Arhos was certainly important to the creation; without the money nothing would have happened, and he is mostly responsible that it has been on the air this long.

The show, which looks about the same now as back then, is successful because of its simplicity and honesty. As far as the creator credit at the opening, it should say Paul Bosner and Bruce Scafe; okay, as well as Bill Arhos.

Today's producers certainly don't have to give any on-air credit for creator, but if they do, it should be truthful and accurate. Like it or not, Paul and I are the creators.

Any questions?

Bruce Scafe,

Co-creator and original director,

Austin City Limits

-------------

September 2002

'ACL,' the True Story

Dear Mr. Black,

Here is an Austin trivia question that only the true native knows. Who was the other creator of Austin City Limits, besides Bill Arhos? No, it wasn't Terry Lickona! The answer is Bruce Scafe. I know this because I am his daughter. With the upcoming festival, I thought that it was time to get the record straight. Year after year, I hear about how great the show is. It must be good to have lasted since 1975. Year after year, my father's name is omitted from every book, every article, hell, every mention of the show that my sister helped name when she was 6. (Originally, it was to be named The Travis County Line Show, but Paula liked Austin Space better; she was a fan of the popular show Lost in Space! Dad then began thinking of names with Austin in the front.) Here is the true story of how Austin City Limits came to be.

During college, my father, an RTF student, with a major in music at the University of Illinois, created a live music show called The Session. It was a very popular show; Billy Joel did his first television performance on it. It ran for a while on public television, but my dad graduated, and had to move on. He needed to make a living, and the show didn't pay. That was in 1965-1966. After college, my parents married and settled down in southern Illinois for a short time before my dad received a job offer at a TV station in Dallas. Within a year, Bruce got a job offer to move to Austin to create another music show on public television, except this time they'd pay him! His true love was music, he's an excellent trumpet player, so he jumped at the chance! Apparently, they loved his work on The Session. That was in early 1974 -- I was 4 years old. I have fond memories of sitting on his knee, in the editing room, slicing film into the night. There are glimpses of my sister and me throughout the years: staring, mesmerized at Charlie Daniels, and many other bands, over the years. I even smelled pot there for the first time in my life! It was the Seventies, after all. My father quit Austin City Limits in 1979; he says that he left for "personal reasons." I think that sometimes he still misses it.

Recently, Bruce Scarfe was taken off of the shows credits as the creator. I'm sure that it hurt him deeply. He put his heart and soul into that show, sometimes working 18-hour stretches for months at a time. Austin City Limits was nominated for an Emmy the second year, and ACL won an award at the Chicago International Film Festival its first year. Over the years, ACL has won several awards. Dad says that only a show that is well structured, from the beginning, could last as long as ACL has. I know that he was a huge part of that success. Bill Arhos doesn't dispute these facts, but he never mentions my father, either. It's about time others knew. He also directed Carascolendas, the Spanish/English children's show in the Seventies, for those of you true Austinites who were wondering.

Thanks for letting me clear the air,

Sara Scafe Quadlander

===============

The Founding of ACL

By Talor Schaddelee

If you were to say that Austin City Limits is the longest-running live music series in television history, you would be mistaken. ACL's original Executive Producer, and one of the men credited with its creation, Bill Arhos would modestly point out that it is in fact the second longest-running live music show following the Boston Pops.

Still, one cannot help but marvel at ACL's impressive 33-year-old history and even Arhos would admit, "That's an extremely old age for a television series."

It is an old TV series, which could never have been created had it not been for the budding "progressive country" or "red neck rock" music of 1970's Austin combined with the creative minds of Bruce Scafe, Paul Bosner and Bill Arhos.

Arhos began as an intern at the Austin PBS affiliate, KLRN-TV (now KLRU) in 1962. He worked his way up. In the early 1970's, Arhos, now program manager, was casting about for a new show that could originate in Austin. The station had just built Studio 6A in UT's Communications Building A, and Arhos says they needed to "activate the facility." The new facility came just as PBS started an initiative that allowed smaller local affiliates to compete with their programming, if they got enough stations around the country to agree to air those shows, says Arhos.

"We missed the first market in 1974. In 74' we were talking about what to do for 75'. [Paul] Bosner was commuting to Dallas so at night he'd go –he was pretty esoteric –he'd go to movies at the Dobie Mall and he started going to Armadillo World Headquarters to listen to music," says Arhos.

KLRN Producer Paul Bosner was a lot more conversant about the local music scene than Arhos was. Bosner had read Jan Reid's 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, which detailed Austin's new country/rock music sound.

"He [Bosner] and Bruce [Scafe] came in one day and said, 'Why don't we do a music series?' And he described what was going on and he gave me that book," says Arhos who, after reading the book, decided to write a proposal for the series.

KLRN Director Bruce Scafe, an avid jazz musician then and now, says that he was only a little familiar with the Austin music scene. Nevertheless, he was excited about the idea of doing a live music program and says the he knew Studio 6A would be great for music production.

Bruce Scafe is an avid jazz musician and one of the founders of ACL.

Before coming to KLRN in 1974, Scafe had directed and produced live programs. One of those was a TV show called The Session, a weekly half-hour music program that featured bands such as REO Speedwagon and Billy Joel. Bosner also had experience working with live programs as a cameraman for CBS, says Arhos.

Arhos says he managed to get $13,000 in pilot money from PBS. Ultimately, he "messed up" on writing the proposal, so they took away $6,000.

"So we did the Willie Nelson pilot for $7,000…pretty amazing," says Arhos.

The original plan was to have the pilot with B.W. Stevenson and Willie Nelson, says Scafe. However, due to technical glitches and sparse attendance for the B.W. Stevenson concert they decided to use Willie's performance for the pilot episode.

Scafe says looking back at his original idea of a small audience and an intimate space for the setting was probably wrong, evidenced by the Willie Nelson pilot.

To date the Willie Nelson pilot is Arhos' favorite show, he says. Arhos described Willie's pilot performance as "seamless" and says that there were only two or three edits for the whole show.

"The easiest part was making the pilot and getting the money for it," Arhos said. "The problem was selling the series."

Before they could sell the show to PBS, Arhos needed a name. During a meeting in D.C. Arhos ran across a movie marquee featuring Macon County Line. "I thought, boy that's got a good ring to it, how about 'Travis County Line'? But I told Bosner, 'We can't call it that because they'll know we stole it,'" says Arhos with a chuckle.

A few other names were suggested, but in the end, it was Bosner, after encountering the "Austin City Limits" sign on every trip he made from Dallas to Austin, who suggested to Arhos and Scafe that they call the show Austin City Limits, says Arhos.

Scafe says one of the hardest obstacles was convincing station executives that the program was not too far outside the mainstream.

But that was not their only problem: the show needed exposure. To do this, Arhos had to convince Greg Harney, program acquisition head for the PBS annual membership drive, to show the pilot at the Station Independence Project meeting, a forum for planning the following year's national pledge drive. Harney agreed to use it, and other stations aired the pilot show with promising results, but ultimately the ACL proposal fell noticeably short of enough votes to get it purchased, says Arhos.

Arhos had almost given up when PBS told him that if five other stations would support the show, it could remain in the market for at least a year. In a last-minute dash before the deadline, Arhos got the needed five stations to sign on.

"Everything -- I don't care what anybody says-- is luck and timing," says Arhos. Arhos noted that others say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

"Well a little bit," he says with a laugh. "But I say luck is when you put three silver dollars in a slot machine and two-thousand of them fall out."

Now, 33 years later, it seems that Arhos, Scafe and Bosner put their coins in the right machine.

 

 
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