ZZ Top has been jamming for 52 years now. The band started back in 1969 in Houston, Texas, with guitarist and lead singer Billy Gibbons, bass guitar Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. Their first album came out in 1971 where they incorporated blues sounds into rock music. Over time their playing style kept changing, from blues-inspired songs to punk and dance rock. During their careers, the band sold over 50 million copies, with their most successful album being “Eliminator” published in 1983 that sold 10 million units.
The band’s unique looks and playing style distinguished them from the flood of rock groups back in the 80s, thus becoming one of the most recognizable sounds in the music industry. Many stories and news articles have been written about them, but there are still some interesting less talked about facts.
Gibbons and Hill refused a $1 million offer to shave their beards
Guitar players of the band have been growing their beards since 1979. Frank Beard is the only one that’s always been clean-shaven because that’s how life works! In 1984 following the hash success of the “Eliminator” album Billy and Dusty turned down an offer from Gillette to shave off their signature beards. At the time Gibbons commented: “It’s a prospect not to be contemplated, no matter the compensation.
“Manic Mechanic” is the real person
A 1979 song “Manic Mechanic” is inspired by a real guy who fixed Dusty Hill’s old Triumph right in his front yard. Dusty saw something maniacal and genius in the way the mechanic handled his car and wrote a song about it.
Here’s how Hill described the event back in 1985 while talking to “SPIN”: “We have a good friend who’s a mechanic, and he’s just wild. A long time ago, I had this old Triumph car, and it kept messing up real bad, and I asked him over to the house. We had a few beers, and I said, ‘Why don’t you take a look at my car.’ He reached up under my dashboard, and he ripped out a handful of wires and he said, ‘First of all, you don’t need this.’ I said, ‘God, man!’ But he fixed it. He was the manic mechanic. People get manic dealing with mechanics, too.”
Gibbons uses a special pick to achieve the distinctive sound
And that special pick is a large, old version of the Mexican 1 peso coin specially shaped to play guitar. He’s also been known to use a plastic pick made from the design of the windows from racing cars. He said that he tried using the regular ones, but he can’t seem to reach the desired sound, so he switches between the coin and the plastic one.
“Just got paid” was impossible to play for a long time
The song is from ZZ Top’s “Rio Grande Mud” 1972 album, way before they hit it big in 1983. While playing the song, fans began throwing coins at the stage hitting the members. On the other hand, guys were struggling financially, so they agreed to take the hits to collect an extra $50 they were getting in coins. Once they published “Eliminator” their popularity grew exponentially by the day and the band took the song off the list. It took decades for ZZ Top to put it back into their repertoire, so, please, don’t throw coins again.
The snake incident
During their tour for the album “Tejas” the band, worried if the fans would pick up on the name of the album, decided to give them a hint by bringing some Texan paraphernalia. The guys decided to bring buffalos, vultures, and rattlesnakes on stage during one of the concerts. It worked like a charm for a few nights until one night the buffalo got sick of being showed-off like a circus animal and started thrashing around breaking the rattlesnakes’ tank. The poisonous reptiles began crawling quickly and hysterically on stage. Not knowing what to do in the unperceived situation, Gibbons, Hills, and Beard ran off and left the crew people to take care of the unhinged animals. This concert went down in history as one of the biggest screw-ups. Next time just hang some Texas flags.