The pilot for the PBS series was first pitched as a way to help gain attention to the network's yearly fundraising drive. The program, which featured a stripped-down visual production with emphasis on stellar audio quality, earned praise from viewers who tuned in for a glimpse of Nelson. At the time, the celebrated singer rarely made television appearances, which made the new program even more buzz-worthy.
Thanks to a solid viewership and an increase in donations after its airing, PBS went on to develop Austin City Limits into a full series. It is now the longest-running music program in America, and has featured some of the best and brightest stars across all genres of music.
The up-close and personal style of production gave viewers the feeling that they were front row center at a small club performance. Austin City Limits was born during a time when the city's music scene was growing faster than ever. Its long-standing dedication to sharing quality music from the still-burgeoning city has helped make the series so successful.
Austin City Limits is still supplying new episodes, and remains regarded as one of the best cultural exports from Austin - aside from Willie Nelson himself.