A Guide to the Bill Arhos Collection of Austin City Limits, 1974-2002
Austin City Limits, a television program showcasing musicians in concert performances, was founded in 1974 by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate station KLRU-TV in Austin, TX. The show’s creators were Bill Arhos, then program director, as well as Paul Bosner and Bruce Scafe, who subsequently produced and directed programs for the series. Their aim was to develop a locally produced program that could attract national attention through distribution to PBS affiliates. Capitalizing on the growing Austin music scene of the 1970s, Arhos received PBS funding for a pilot show featuring Willie Nelson and Family.
Station executives across the country liked the pilot and funded filming for Austin City Limits first season, thirteen shows that were taped in 1975 and premiered in 1976. Austin City Limits continues to follow that filming schedule with each season taped during one calendar year and aired the next. The one-hour programs usually pair two musicians, each given thirty-minute segments in which to deliver an uninterrupted, concert-style performance to a studio audience. Nationally known artists are often paired with lesser-known regional or local performers, giving those lesser-known artists a chance to be seen by the whole country. Although the mainstream country and progressive country genres have been staples of the program, Austin City Limits has also featured an eclectic mix of American music: jazz, blues, folk, pop and rock. Studio 6-A in the Communications building on The University of Texas (UT) campus is the permanent home for the show. Some members of the production crew have been with the show since the beginning. In November 2003, Austin City Limits became the first television program ever to be awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The donor of this collection, Bill Arhos, was the creator of Austin City Limits and executive producer of the show until his retirement in 1999. A Texas native and graduate of Rice University, he received his Master of Educational Administration from Texas A and M. A semi-pro baseball player and a schoolteacher for part of his career, Arhos began working at KLRN-TV, now KLRU, in 1961. He was an instructor in Radio/TV/Film at UT from 1965-1970. He served six years on the PBS Board of Directors and completed two terms on the Country Music Association (CMA) Board of Directors in 1994. Over four decades in public television, Arhos produced and directed educational and entertainment programs, series and specials, and served as program director, general manager, and president of KLRU.
The Austin City Limits Collection spans the years from 1974 to 2002. It is a diverse collection that contains documents and artifacts relevant to Austin City Limits and artists connected with the show, Bill Arhos (creator, executive producer and program director for Austin City Limits), the Austin Film Festival and PBS-KLRU/KLRN. The collection includes press clippings, publicity materials, photographs, correspondence, galley proofs for the book Austin City Limits by Cliff Endres, and memorabilia such as tee shirts, hats, backstage passes, posters, and tickets. Of particular interest are the press clippings and publicity items. These materials will serve as a valuable supplement for other research resources to reveal a comprehensive portrait of the operations and history of the show.
Series 1: Press, 1974-2002 This series contains newspaper and magazine clippings relevant to Austin City Limits, related artists, and Bill Arhos. The clippings are organized in chronological order.
Series 2: Publicity and Programming This series contains publicity materials (press kits, photos, posters) for Austin City Limits, related artists, the Austin Film Festival, and PBS-KLRU/KLRN.
Series 3: Photographs
Open for research.
Gifts donated by Bill Arhos, 2000 and 2002.
Heather Milligan and Ruth Sullivan, 2003.
Detailed Description of the Collection