About ZZ Top
The only member of ZZ Top without a beard is drummer Frank Beard, but that’s just the second-strangest thing about this Texan trio. The strangest thing about ZZ Top is that they can lay claim to being both the dirtiest no-nonsense blues-rock band of the ‘70s and the glitziest camera-ready electro-boogie group of the ‘80s. Upon forming in Houston in 1969, ZZ Top were among a wave of Southern rock bands outfitting bluesy, British Invasion-schooled riffs with countrified fingerpicking and desert-baked grooves. But thanks to guitarist Billy Gibbons’ pedigree in ‘60s garage outfit The Moving Sidewalks, horndog rave-ups like “Tush” and “La Grange” eschewed epic, Skynyrd-sized jams for a raw, raunchy energy tailor-made for a target demographic of (as another one of their early standards put it) beer drinkers and hell raisers. Though ZZ Top often played the part of Southern showmen with their cowboy hats and Nudie suits, by the early ‘80s, Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill had grown out their beards past their chests, lending this workmanlike band a quirky visual trademark just in time for the music-video era. And it wasn’t just their appearance that had changed: With 1983’s blockbuster Eliminator, ZZ Top crosswired their gritty grooves with New Wave synths and sequencers to the tune of over 10 million copies sold, while a series of videos featuring hot models cruising around in the album cover’s customized vintage Ford Coupe made the band icons of the then-nascent MTV. Since then, ZZ Top have kept on rollin’ past the half-century mark, and they remain the rare classic-rock institution that always keeps its ear to the ground for fresh inspiration. Where most veteran artists turn to Rick Rubin for a back-to-basics reboot, ZZ Top’s 2012 dalliance with the famed producer yielded “I Gotsta Get Paid”, a sleazy, grease-fried reinterpretation of DJ DMD’s Houston-rap standard “25 Lighters”.