ZZ Top – Blue Jean Blues
ZZ Top (pronounced [zɪː zɪː top]) is an American rock band that formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. The band comprises guitarist and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons (the band’s leader, main lyricist and musical arranger), bassist and co-lead vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard. One of the few major label recording groups to have held the same lineup for more than forty years, ZZ Top has been praised by critics and fellow musicians alike for their technical mastery. Of the group, music writer Cub Koda said “As genuine roots musicians, they have few peers; Gibbons is one of America’s finest blues guitarists working in the arena rock idiom […] while Hill and Beard provide the ultimate rhythm section support.”
Since the release of the band’s debut album in January 1971, ZZ Top has become known for its strong blues roots and humorous lyrical motifs, relying heavily on double entendres and innuendo. ZZ Top’s musical style has changed over the years, beginning with blues-inspired rock on their early albums, then incorporating new wave, punk rock and dance-rock, with heavy use of synthesizers. One of the best-selling musical artists in history, the band has had global album sales in excess of 50 million as of 2014.
ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. As a group, ZZ Top possesses 11 gold records and 7 platinum (13 multi-platinum) records; their 1983 album, Eliminator, remains the group’s most commercially successful record, selling over 10 million units. ZZ Top also ranks 80th in U.S. album sales, with 25 million units.
First decade and signature sound (1973–1982)
ZZ Top released Tres Hombres in 1973. The album’s earthy and infectious sound was the result of the propulsive support provided by Hill and Beard, and Gibbons’ “growling” guitar tone. Dan Erlewine wrote that the album “brought ZZ Top their first Top Ten record, making them stars in the process”. The album included the boogie-driven “La Grange”, which was written about a brothel in La Grange, Texas. On the subsequent tour, the band performed sold-out concerts in the US. ZZ Top recorded the live tracks for their 1975 album, Fandango!, during this tour; the album showcased their prowess in exciting live audiences. Fandango! was a top ten album and its single, “Tush”, peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Tejas, released in 1976, was not as successful or as positively received as their previous efforts, although the album went to No. 17 on the Billboard 200. ZZ Top continued the Worldwide Texas Tour in support of Tejas, though they had been touring for seven years.
The band went on what was supposed to be a 90-day break from public appearances. Gibbons traveled to Europe, Beard went to Jamaica, and Hill went to Mexico. The break extended to two years, during which Gibbons and Hill grew chest-length beards.
In 1979, ZZ Top signed with Warner Bros. Records and released the album Degüello. While the album went platinum, it only reached No. 24 on the Billboard chart. The album produced two singles, including “I Thank You,” a cover of a song recorded by Sam & Dave, and “Cheap Sunglasses.” The band remained a popular concert attraction and toured in support of Degüello. In April 1980, ZZ Top made their first appearance in Europe, performing for the German music television show Rockpalast. The next album, El Loco, was released in October 1981, featuring three singles (“Tube Snake Boogie”, “Pearl Necklace”, and “Leila”).
La Futura (2012–present)
Billy Gibbons stated in an interview in August 2011 that the new album had been recorded, with initial recording taking place in Malibu, California, before moving to Houston, but was still unnamed and had yet to be mixed and mastered.
Gibbons said that the expected release date was sometime in March or April 2012 but later on, a release in the late summer or fall had been announced. Subsequently, the album was released on 11 September 2012.
Entitled La Futura, the album is produced by Rick Rubin. The first single from the album, “I Gotsta Get Paid,” debuted in an advertising campaign for Jeremiah Weed and appears on the soundtrack of the film Battleship. The song itself is an interpretation of “25 Lighters” by Texan hip hop DJ DMD and rappers Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat. The first four songs from La Futura debuted on June 5, 2012 on an EP called Texicali.DJ Screw was a major influence on the album as well, particularly because Gibbons and Screw both worked with the engineer G. L. Moon during the late 1990s.
ZZ Top contributed a song, “Doubleback”, and appeared as a hillbilly band in the wild-west dance scene in the 1990 movie, Back to the Future Part III. The band also appeared in the 1990 TV movie, Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme, portraying the Three Men in a Tub.
ZZ Top performed at the 2008 Orange Bowl game in Miami, as well as the Auto Club 500 NASCAR event at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. On June 23, 2008, ZZ Top celebrated the release of their first live concert DVD entitled Live from Texas with the world premiere, a special appearance, and charity auction at the Hard Rock Cafe in Houston. The DVD was officially released on June 24, 2008. The featured performance was culled from a concert filmed at the Nokia Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas on November 1, 2007.
On January 22, 2010, Billy Gibbons accompanied Will Ferrell and others playing “Free Bird” on Conan O’Brien’s last Tonight Show appearance as host. O’Brien joined in on guitar.
On June 8, 2011, a press release, reported on various media sources, announced that the new song “Flyin’ High” will debut in space. Astronaut and friend of ZZ Top, Michael Fossum, was given the released single to listen to on his trip to the International Space Station.
On June 4, 2014, ZZ Top opened the CMT Awards performing La Grange with Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.
Billy Gibbons – vocals, guitar (1969–present)
Frank Beard – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1969–present)
Dusty Hill – bass, keyboards, vocals (1969–present)
Pre ZZ Top members
Lanier Greig – organ, bass (1969; died 2013)
Dan Mitchell – drums (1969)
Billy Ethridge – bass (1969)
Main article: ZZ Top discography
ZZ Top’s First Album (1971)
Rio Grande Mud (1972)
Tres Hombres (1973)
El Loco (1981)
La Futura (2012)
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