When ZZ Top burst onto the scene in 1973, no one really knew what to make of them. A Texas trio comprised of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, the band played a kind of Texa music that few outside the Lone Star State had heard of.
The band had a heavy blues influence that echoed through the following decades as acts like Stevie Ray Vaughn embraced the musical themes and expanded on them.
But no one really matched the early energy of ZZ Top. Tush is a great song and Blue Jean Blues is a great slow grind of a song. Gibbons’ voice proved to be a perfect match for the band’s style, low, gritty and soulful.
In the ‘80s, the band took a different direction, embracing MTV and synthesizers, but without losing touch with their roots.
They stayed together from 1969 to June of 2021, when Hill passed away. Gibbons and Beard are still in the band; Hill was replaced by the musician he chose, Elwood Francis.
That’s a long run for any group. Their best song though may have been from their 1973 breakout album, Tres Hombres, called LaGrange. It’s one of those songs that not many people try to cover because, well, ZZ Top just owns it.
Here’s a version they played for Howard Stern. The acoustic intro is gone here but the spirit remains the same.