The Little Ol’ Band From Texas have been one of the most acclaimed and successful bands around for so long, it’s hard to recall a time when those beards, those songs, those videos and this trio haven’t been part of our culture. In fact, ZZ are now approaching their 50th anniversary, and all of this without a line-up change.. well, the last part is quite accurate.
The band were formed in 1969 by former Moviong Sidewalks guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons, who was joined by organist Lanier Grieg and drummer Dan Mitchell. But after releasing the single ‘Salt Lick’, Grieg was replaced by bassist Billy Ethridge, while Frank Beard came in on drums. Shortly afterwards, Dusty Hill drafted in to play bass, and the dye was cast for ZZ’s future.
The trio played their first show on February 10, 1970 in Beaumont, Texas. Now signed to London Records, their debut album, ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ came out later that year. It immediately exhibited the ZZ trademarks of rough ‘n’ ready bar room blues, sly humour and dexterous musicianship. ‘Rio Grande Mud’ in 1972 continued with those themes.
But it was with ’73’s ‘Tres Hombres’ album that the band really made the commercial breakthrough. With songs like ‘La Grange’, ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ and ‘Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers’, it established their style as having commercial potency. And two years later, the single ‘Tush’ was their first top 20 hit in the States.
To underline their individuality, and sense of showmanship, ZZ went on a year long tour in 1976 called ‘The Worldwide Texas Tour’. Performing on s stage designed to look like a map of the Lone Star State, they also filled it with snakes, cattle, buffalo and cacti… and it was a massive success, selling over a million tickets.
However, at this juncture, the band took a break, disappearing from view for two years, during which both Gibbons and Hill grew those lengthy beards. Returning with a new record deal, this time with Warner Brothers, ZZ overhauled their sound for 1983’s ‘Eliminator’ album, which sold over 10 million copies. Combining their renowned blues-based sound with a more contemporary electronic edge, songs like ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, ‘Legs’, ‘Gimme All Your Lovin” and ‘TV Dinners’ became the soundtrack for a generation. Moreover, in an era when MTV was exploding, their videos were on constant rotation. The car, the keyring, the girls, the suits… ZZ had become idols for a new generation.
Moreover, this gave them the breakthrough in the UK, where they headlined the Monsters Of Rock Festival in 1985.
In 2004, ZZ were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2004 by Keith Richards. They’ve carried on releasing well received albums, and playing sold out arenas across the world. And in 2001, they made history when the song ‘Flyin’ High’ got airplay in space, when astronaut Michael Fossum played it en route to the International Space Station!
ZZ Top – always setting the highest standards in their uniquely innovative fashion.
‘Tush’, ‘La Grange’, ‘Legs’.
Their Finest Hour
The band live in Dortmund during 1982, with everything turned up to boogie level!