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Bill Arhos, founder of Austin City Limits, dies at age 80

Mastermind of the longest running music program on US television

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Bill Arhos, the founder of Austin City Limits, has died. He was 80 years old and succumbed to a long-fought, undisclosed illness on Saturday.

Arhos joined Austin’s KLRU public television in 1961 just as the station was launching. In 1974, he shot the first episode of Austin City Limits with Willie Nelson. The show aired in 1975, and since then has gone on to become the longest running music program on US television. Over the course of his time from 1975 until his retirement in 1999, Arhos served as Producer, Program Director, Vice President of Programming, and Executive Producer of the show.

“I’ve never met anyone like Bill Arhos,” ACL Executive Producer and longtime colleague Terry Lickona said in an official statement. “He was a real character, known and loved not just in Austin but throughout the PBS system. The idea for Austin City Limits was not just his alone, but he brought it to life, and he kept the show going and growing through some difficult times. Whether they know it or not, millions of music fans, artists and PBS viewers owe a debt to him for his enormous contribution to what’s become a cultural institution.”

Arhos will be laid to rest at Texas State Cemetery in a private ceremony. The family requests that those wishing to pay their respects donate to the Bill Arhos Fund at KLRU. The announcement also promised a celebration of his life, to be announced shortly.

Below, watch a tribute video played during Arhos introduction to the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame during its inaugural ceremony last year, followed by Nelson’s performance during the pilot episode of ACL.

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