Songwriting icon Guy Clark was among five acts inducted to the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the TV show’s Moody Theater, but while Jason Isbell sang “Desperados Waiting for a Train” in his honor, Clark was in an Austin hospital waiting to see a doctor.
The 73-year-old Texas native “apparently had a bad reaction to medication he’s been taking for some recent surgery,” ACL producer Terry Lickona said, adding that he was taken by ambulance before show time as a precaution. While inducting Clark, Lyle Lovett said, “He is my friend, he is my hero,” then announcing, “Guy we all love you” in accepting the glass replica of the show’s skyline backdrop for his mentor.
Guy Clark Hospitalized Before ACL Hall of Fame Induction
Country legend Loretta Lynn, Texas accordion master Flaco Jimenez, dark songsmith Townes Van Zandt and Western swing veterans Asleep at the Wheel were also inducted into the hall, whose physical existence is still in the planning stages. The show was a fundraiser for KLRU, the station which owns Austin City Limits, the country’s longest-running music show on TV, now in its 41st season.
Hosted by Dwight Yoakam — whose style of wearing his cowboy hat brim low led to occasional TelePrompTer misadventures — the show went on, as Lynn, the first major female star to tape an ACL episode in 1983, was presented her award on video. Fellow Kentuckian Patty Loveless sang “Coalminer’s Daughter” and “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” in honor of the woman “whose songs spoke to a lot of women of many ages,” then was joined by Vince Gill on the Lynn/Conway Twitty hit “After the Fire Is Gone.”
The show-stealer was Jimenez, the 76-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, who had more trouble walking onstage than he did squeezing out sparks on the accordion, backed by Tejano Grammy winners Los Texmaniacs, with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos on guitar. They were joined by Yoakam on Warren Zevon‘s “Carmelita” and the No. 1 country hit “Streets of Bakersfield.” At one point, Texmaniac Max Baca said the musicians were going to have to repeat a song, which does happen at ACL tapings, but instead Jimenez started playing the conjunto standard “Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio,” made famous to Anglos by the 1983 Los Lobos version, and the crowd erupted.
The night’s poignant moments came with the songs of Van Zandt, an ACL favorite who died of a heart attack in 1997 at age 52. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings started the somber segment with “Tecumseh Valley” and “Dollar Bill Blues,” then yielded the stage to mesmerizing British singer Laura Marling and her resonator guitar on “Colorado Girl.” In her moving induction speech, which she said she wrote in her head on the 900-mile drive from Nashville, Welch called the hard-living Van Zandt “an inspiration and a cautionary tale. I miss hearing his voice through the P.A.”
Van Zandt’s son J.T., who performed one of his father’s songs, was the only one to mention Clark’s illness onstage. “When I saw him loaded up and going in [to the ambulance], I was thinking about Guy and my father and the way they lived it,” said the man whose likeness to his father is stunning. “I just want to tell all the songwriters coming up: You don’t have to wreck yourself to do this. Just keep your heart open.”
The three and a half hour show, which will be cut down to an hour and televised near the end of this season, ended with several songs from Asleep at the Wheel, whose leader Ray Benson looked, in his white suit and hat, like Colonel Sanders as a Willie Nelson roadie. The finale was an all-hands-back-on-stage version of Van Zandt’s most uptempo tune “White Freightliner Blues.”
Clark’s spokesperson could not be reached Friday (June 19) for an update on his condition.