FINALLY: Ray Wylie Hubbard to Play ‘Austin City Limits’

photo: Brad Coolidge

It only took 45 years, and many many impassioned pleas by fans and supporters and believers (including here at Saving Country Music), but Ray Wylie Hubbard will finally be appearing on his own segment on the longest-running music show on television, and one that was originally set up to promote and chronicle the contributions of artists just like the Austin and Texas music legend.

Yes, the 73-year-old Hubbard will officially appear on the Austin City Limits stage for a proper taping on Wednesday, October 21st. Though there will be no audience per COVID-19 restrictions—similar to the other performers this season—it won’t much matter. It’s a long-running wrong done right for Ray Wylie. The decision to finally have Hubbard appear was apparently made back in July, but wasn’t confirmed until Hubbard made the announcement on Monday (10-5).

“I actually haven’t heard the hoofbeats of the four horseman of the apocalypse approaching so before they saddle up, I’d like to thank each of you who wrote ‘Austin City Limits’ on my behalf,” Hubbard said in his usually wry, self-deprecating manner. “Just when I was approaching the time to be put out to pasture, this happens and I decide to hitch my self back up to the parade wagon for a promenade under the television lights of a show I have watched for around 45 years but never appeared on it. So thanks to the powers that be at ACL for asking me to do my gnarly old songs.”

Hubbard has actually appeared on the show briefly before, when he took the stage with fellow Austin songwriter Hayes Carll to perform the song they wrote together, “Drunken Poet’s Dream.” But this was the extent of it. Inspired by Jan Reid’s book The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock (Jan Reed just passed away), the original mission of Austin City Limits was to chronicle, support, and promote music from Austin, TX through the local non-profit PBS channel, KLRU. It soon became one of PBS’s signature shows, and is the namesake of the massive Austin City Limits music festival every fall.

However Ray Wylie Hubbard had been curiously overlooked over the years, never appearing while artists well outside the Austin music sphere who already enjoyed wide popularity were brought in. Over the years, the ACL stage has become one of the most prestigious in all of music, with artists regularly eschewing television appearances such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead making exceptions for the show. It’s also given credit for launching many careers, including from guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan. However over that time period, the original mission of supporting local roots music first has sometimes been lost.

The appearance comes at a time with Ray Wylie Hubbard is enjoying a resurgence in his career. He recently signed to Big Machine Records, and released a new album called Co-Starring, which sees appearances by Ringo Star, Joe Walsh, Pam Tillis, Ashley McBryde, Ronnie Dunn, and many more. Eric Church (who has played ACL before), has also been a big proponent of Hubbard over the last few years, name dropping him in a song, and co-writing his hit “Desperate Man” with Ray. Hubbard also finally made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry stage in July of 2019.

Appearing with Hubbard on Austin City Limits will be his son Lucas (likely on the Gold Top Les Paul guitar), touring drummer Kyle Schneider, fellow Austin legend and producer Gurf Morlix on bass, and Bukka Allen on keyboards.

Ray Wylie Hubbard was once dubbed “The Forgotten Outlaw” for the way the music scene seemed to summarily pass him by. Even as he was writing seminal songs such as “Redneck Mother”—which Willie Nelson played on the first-ever pilot episode of Austin City Limits, and Jerry Jeff Walker had a hit with—the Oklahoma born, Dallas-raised, and Austin-reared musician never made it to the next level. Now Hubbard, who will be 74 next month, is finally receiving his due.

Better late than never.

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