Bill Arhos, the founder of the famous Austin City Limits TV program, passed away on Saturday (April 11). He was 80 years old.

Born on Nov. 3, 1934, and raised in Bryan, Texas, Arhos began working at KLRU, Austin's public television station, in 1961, when the station was just forming. Under his direction the first episode of Austin City Limits aired in 1974, with Willie Nelson as the special guest. Frequent guests on the show included Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rosanne Cash, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and Asleep at the Wheel, the latter of whom performed for ACL's second taping.

“Bill was a great friend to Austin music. He loved the music of Texas and created Austin City Limits to showcase it,” Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson tells the Austin Chronicle“When we met in 1975, I was a young 24-year-old living in South Austin with dozens of other aspiring musicians. Bill recognized the great potential in all of us and created a show that gave us worldwide exposure.”

Up until his retirement in 1999, Arhos held various roles at KLRU and Austin City Limits, including as producer, program director, vice president of programming and executive producer.

“I’ve never met anyone like Bill Arhos,” Terry Lickona, current ACL executive producer and Arhos' longtime colleague, says in a 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 was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last year.

“Bill Arhos was a legend in public media, respected for his creativity, energy and persistence," says KLRU General Manager Bill Stotesbery. "From day one, he dedicated himself to building a station that was a national leader in production, and he set a standard that others seek to achieve. He will be missed greatly.”

Arhos died of a long-fought, but undisclosed, illness. He will be buried in a private ceremony at Texas State Cemetery. A separate public celebration of life is being planned for the near future. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Bill Arhos Fund.

The Boot extends our condolences to Arhos' family.

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