A distinctive look and blues-based sound have kept ZZ Top running long after many of their contemporaries disbanded. Sporting the same lineup for the last 45 years, the trio continues to record and tour, much to the delight of their fans. With more than 50 million albums sold worldwide, and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band remains wildly popular. In honor of their upcoming show on April 29 in Clearwater, here are five things to know about ZZ Top.
- Guitarist Billy Gibbons caught the eye of Jimi Hendrix.
In his early days in the psychedelic band the Moving Sidewalks, Gibbons won a major fan in legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The band was asked to open for Hendrix on tour, and Hendrix touted GIbbons’ guitar prowess during an appearance on the Dick Cavett Show. The Moving Sidewalks were extremely successful in their home state of Texas, reaching the top of the Houston charts, but were unable to break through to a national audience.
- There’s a guy named Beard in the band, but it isn’t who you think.
Drummer Frank Beard is actually the only member of the band who does not wear the chest-length beard that has become the band’s signature look. Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill grew the beards on a break from touring in the late 1970s.
- They became famous for their bluesy sound…
Although the band struggled to find an audience in its early years, they eventually found a group of loyal fans who were attracted to their bluesy, electric sound. Their never-ending tours helped them bring their music to more people, but their biggest hits were yet to come.
- …but found their biggest success when they added synthesizers.
In 1983, the band released Eliminator. The album featured synthesizers added to their blues rock sound, and it became one of the biggest albums of the decade. Featuring hits like “Legs,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Sharp Dressed Man,” the album sold more than 10 million copies. They also used their video-friendly image to score lots of playtime on MTV. After a few more albums in this vein, the band returned to their guitar-based sound.
- They debuted a single in space.
In 2011, the band sent a copy of their latest single, “Flyin’ High,” into space. Astronaut Michael Fossum, a friend of the band, took the single with him to the International Space Station, where he was the first to play it.
Jessica Wheeler is the music columnist for AliveTampaBay.