Years: 1969 - present
Styles: Blues Rock, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Southern Rock
Lanier Greig - Bass Guitar, Organ (in band: 1969)
Dan Mitchell - Drums (in band: 1969)
Billy Gibbons - Backing vocals, Baritone saxophone, Fiddle, Guitar, Harmonica, Lead guitar, Slide guitar, Vocals (in band: 1969 - present)
Billy Ethridge - Bass Guitar (in band: 1969)
Frank Beard - Alto saxophone, Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1969 - present)
Dusty Hill - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1969 - present)
ZZ Top is an American rock band that formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. The band comprises guitarist and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons, 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 40 years, ZZ Top has been praised by critics and fellow musicians alike for their technical mastery.
ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and has garnered 11 gold records and seven platinum records; their 1983 album, "Eliminator", remains the group's most commercially successful record, selling over 10 million units.
The original line-up formed in Houston, by Billy Gibbons of the Moving Sidewalks, organist and bassist Lanier Greig and drummer Dan Mitchell. ZZ Top was managed by Bill Ham, who had befriended Gibbons a year earlier. They released their first single, "Salt Lick", in 1969. Immediately after the recording of "Salt Lick", Greig was replaced by bassist Billy Ethridge, a band mate of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mitchell was replaced by Frank Beard of the American Blues. Due to lack of interest from record companies, ZZ Top accepted a record deal from London Records. Unwilling to sign a recording contract, Ethridge quit the band and Dusty Hill was selected as his replacement. After Hill moved from Dallas to Houston, ZZ Top signed with London in 1970. They performed their first concert together at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Beaumont on February 10.
“First Album” appeared in 1971, its stark title matching the raw simplicity of southern blues/boogie contained withing the groves. This straightforward appoach also extended to the group’s music biz masterplan; ZZ Top were first and foremost a live band, their punishing touring shedule, largely in the American South initially, would eventually turn grassroots support into record sales as well as honing their musical skills for future glories. A follow-up set, “Rio Grande Mud” (1972) spawned the group’s first (US) hit single “Francene” although ZZ Top only really began to make an impact wit 1973’s “Tres Hombres”.
“Tres Hombres” is the record that brought ZZ Top their first Top Ten record, making them stars in the process. It couldn’t have happened to a better record. ZZ Top finally got their low-down, cheerfully sleazy blooze-n-boogie right on this, their third album. As their sound gelled, producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so simly that theysound indestructible, and the group brought the best set of songs they’d ever have tothe table. On the surface, there’s nothing realy special about the record, since it is just a driving blues rock album from Texas bar band, but that’s special about it.
It has a fifty groove and infectious feel, thanks to Billy Gibbons’ growling guitars andthe steady propulsion of Dusty Hill and Frank Beard rhithm section. They get the blend of bluesy shuffles, get-bucket rocking, and off-beat humor just.right. ZZ Top’s very identitycomes from this earthly sound and songs as utterly infectious as “Waitin’ for the Bus”, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, “Move Me on Down the Line”, and the John Lee Hooker boogie “La Grange”.
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, 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").
The tongue-in-cheek smut only realy got underway with "Eliminator" (1983", however, the gleaming videos for the likes of the pounding "Gimme All Your Lovin'". "Sharp Dressed Man" and of course. “Legs”, featuring more leggy lovelies than a Robert Palmer video. These MTV staples also introducted ZZ Top’s famous red Ford coup, the fearsome motor becoming as much of an 80’s icon as Franlie Goes to Hollywood t-shirts.
Musically, the album was almost a complete departure. Turbo-charging the guitar way in the mix and boosting the overall sound with a synthesized trob. This thademark electro-boogie would see ZZ Top through the best part of a decade. Deservedly, the record was a massive worldwide success,a multi million seller which markedthe first instalment in a three-album semi-concept affair, built around the “Eliminator” car.
Well, if you just had your biggest hit ever, you’d probably try to replicate it, to. And if you were called visionary because you played your blues to a slightly sequenced beat, you’d probably to temped to turn on the drum-machine and graft on synthesizers, to, since it’ll all signal how futuristic you are. While you’re at it, you might as well visualizehow space age this all is by turning your signature car into space shutle.
From this view point, “Afterburner” makes perfect sense – ZZ Top are just giving the people more of that they want. Problems is, no matter how much you dress’em up, their still ZZ Top, they’re still that li’l ol’ blues band from Texas, and blues rock just doesn’t have a kick when it’s synthesized, even if ZZ Top’s grooves always bordered on robotic. So, “Afterburner”, their most synthetic album, will not please most ZZ Top fans, even if did go platinum seval times over. That’s just a sign of the times,when even hard rock bands had to sound as slick as synth-pop, complete DX-7 and cavernous drums. As an artifact of that time, “Afterburner” is pretty good – never has a hard rock album sounded so artificial, nor has a bues rock album sounded so devoid of blues.
. "Recycler", released in 1990, was ZZ Top's last studio album under contract with Warner Records. "Recycler" was also the last of a distinct sonic trilogy in the ZZ Top catalogue, marking a return towards a simpler guitar-driven blues sound with less synthesizer and pop bounce than the previous two albums. This move did not entirely suit the fan base that "Eliminator" and "Afterburner" had built up, and while "Recycler" did achieve platinum status, it never matched the sales of those albums.
In 1994, the band signed to a $35 million deal with RCA Records, releasing the million-selling "Antenna" in 1994. Subsequent RCA albums, "Rhythmeen" (1996) and 1999's "XXX" (the second album to feature live tracks) sold well, but did not reach the levels enjoyed previously. ZZ Top, however, continued to play to enthusiastic live audiences. In 2003, ZZ Top released a final RCA album, "Mescalero", an album thick with harsh Gibbons guitar and featuring a hidden track — a cover version of "As Time Goes By". RCA impresario Clive Davis wanted to do a collaboration record (in the mode of Carlos Santana's successful "Supernatural") for this album.
The album entitled "La Futura" was released on September 11, 2012. The band kicked off a North American tour in 2015 with a concert in Red Bank, New Jersey, at the Count Basie Theatre on March 3, 2015. After rescheduled dates and concert additions, the tour wrapped up with a concert in Highland Park, Illinois, at the Ravinia Pavilion on August 27, with Blackberry Smoke. Jeff Beck joined ZZ Top for seven concerts of the tour.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZZ_Top
2. The Great Rock Discography - Martin C.Strong, Four Edition, by Canongate Publishing, Ltd. Edinburgh, p. 947
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 1271 - 1272 - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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