Whether you’re a die hard fan or not, if you’ve ever seen and heard ZZ Top, it’s quite likely that you’ll never forget them! This Texas born and bred, gritty blues band has a look that’s almost as popular as their music!
Long beards and sunglasses, cool guitars and hot cars, will always be trademarks that devoted ZZ Top fans automatically associate with this classic rock band! And, we can’t leave out the sexy women that always show up in their videos!
Since 1969, “That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” has hard rocked their way into music history. ZZ Top holds one very special distinction that separates them from most of the bands of the 60’s and 70’s.
While almost all of the other bands went through member changes on an seemingly regular basis, ZZ Top’s original members have stuck together through thick and thin. And, until September 2006, Bill Ham had served as their friend, manager and producer from the bands beginning!
ZZ Top was comprised of Dusty Hill doing vocals and working his magic on the bass guitar, Billy Gibbons providing vocals and his amazing talent with the guitar and Frank Beard with his almost hypnotic drum beat!
Prior to the formation of ZZ Top, Beard and Hill had been a part of the American Blues band. Gibbons’ band the Moving Sidewalks, with a psychedelic blues style was starting to come apart. Their love of blues, rock, boogie and Texas came together and created a band like the world had never seen before!
The origin of the bands name has sparked several theories. Appearing in a decade in which marijuana was probably smoked more than cigarettes, the most popular belief is that the band had combined the names of two brands of rolling paper, Zig-Zag and Top! Other theories included that they were making a tribute to Z.Z. Hill, a blues legend.
The band began their career playing in small out of the way places, a strategy that Ham was sure would work. Although, the band made very little money at the time, they soon attracted fans that would always be faithful Z.Z. Top followers!
The band signed with London Records and released their first album simply titled, “Z.Z. Top’s First Album” in 1970. They laid claim to their stake in the blues industry with their release of “Rio Grande Mud” in 1971.
Their smooth fusion of a little Memphis soul with their Texas blues style soon became the signature sound for band and their popularity continued to grow. Their release of “Tres Hombres” marked the start of an eleven album run that all either went gold or platinum!
In 1976, their World Wide Texas Tour: Taking Texas to the People, not only stunned fans with their grungy blues music, it entertained them with a whole menagerie of animals!
The enormous undertaking included a huge Texas shaped stage covered with native Texan animals! The stage extravaganza totaled up to 75 tons of equipment and animals that had to be moved from concert to concert!
The additional “band members” comprised of a longhorn steer, buzzards, coyotes, tarantulas, a buffalo and even some rattlesnakes made the tour one of the most successful tours ever done and grossed over $11.5 million for Z.Z. Top!
Z.Z. Top had reached concert earnings in the tens of millions by the end of the year and a half long World Wide Texas Tour. But, all the album recording and the constant touring had left the band totally exhausted.
In what some saw as a bad business move, they took a break from the industry that ended up lasting almost three years! Bill Ham used the time to negotiate a deal for the band that is still talked about in the music business.
He made arrangements that would allow the band to maintain control of their previous albums even though he’d secured a new label deal with Warner Bros. Records!
The members traveled the world and got some much needed rest from the years of constant work. Gibbons worked on his vast guitar collection of over 300 instruments, he also has nine design patents. The former University of Texas art student is a member of the board of trustees for the contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.
When the band decided to start recording for the new label in 1979, Hill and Gibbons showed up with their famous beards! Neither had knowledge that the other was growing a beard, the look stuck and both have had a beard ever since!
Ironically, Frank Beard is the only member that doesn’t have a beard!
The bands reunion resulted in the release of “Deguello” that was full of instant classics. The album sported a wide variety of sounds described as everything from sweet to raunchy!
The trio’s ability of producing such a wide range of styles prompted a description in Rolling Stone’s magazine “as truly violent music and whang-dang beyond mere professionalism”!
The bands success was an almost unstoppable force that just kept going. By the 80’s the band had discovered synthesizers and incorporated a sound that appealed to fans of all styles of music, including disco, boogie and even New Wave fans!
The “Eliminator” released in 1983, became one of the decades biggest albums. It sold more than ten million copies, produced three video, radio and club hits. And, the song “Legs” still remains the bands biggest single of their career!
The band enjoyed international superstar standing from “Eliminator” in 83′ until their “Greatest Hits” finally left the charts in 1993. “Afterburner” released in 1985 gave the group four Top Forty hits and in 1986, Pollster magazine named them the top touring act!
The trilogy that started with “Eliminator” in 83′ was completed in 1990 with the release of “Recycler”. Another album that added even more instant hits to the bands long list!
In talking about the title, “Recycler”, Gibbons said, “We’ve been reinventing ourselves for quite awhile, in our own way, we’ve made every effort to preserve our precious rock and roll environment”.
To this day, Z.Z. Top remains one of rock and roll’s most entertaining live acts. In 1984, the band was honored with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, highly honored once again in 1986, when they were made official heroes of Texas by the Representatives of the Texas Legislature!
In 1984, the Gillette razor company offered both Gibbons and Hill a cool million dollars each to shave their beards in a commercial! Of course, they both declined to give up the beards they’d had since 1979, that had become a part of Z.Z. Top!
Some of their songs have shown their strong roots in Texas, some have been a little funny and others have even been a little raunchy! But everything that Z.Z. Top has done has somehow always been a winning combination!
The “Little Ol’ Band From Texas” has truly branded Z.Z. Top onto the hearts of millions of fans!
Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2010 BestOfAllTopics.com