ZZ Top: Mexico, Beards and the Modernization of Classic Blues

In their humble beginning, ZZ Top always showed their blues roots. But then fame took over, and that crazy urge to remain mainstream that ruins so many great blues bands. In 2012 they finally did the right thing, and channeled that blues energy once again, except this time with a modern (and electronic) twist.

ZZ Top started out in Houston Texas in 1969, a time when there were amazing changes taking place all over the musical spectrum. Over 40 years later, the heavily bearded band still has the same line-up. This consists of Billy Gibbons on guitar and vocals, Dusty Hill on bass and vocals and Frank Beard on drums.

Besides the big beards, ZZ Top has always been known for having a strong blues sound paired with rather funny songs laden with innuendo and double entendres. Who can forget “You got it whip it up and hit me like a ton of lead, If I blow my top will you let it go to your head?” It was lyrics such as this that allowed ZZ Top stay at the top of the charts for so long.

They have had their moments, taking brief (thankfully) excursions to the grunge world and even techno but they have never forgotten their blues roots. This is evidenced by the 2012 release of La Futura, one of their most authentically blues sounding albums in decades, with a modern twist. That release put them back on tour and back at Blues Fests all over the world.

Sometimes mistaken for being Hispanic, thanks to the Spanish album titles and references in their music, these three Houstonites are not of Mexican descent, but rather just have a deep love for the culture. This is easy to understand after growing up in an area that is infused with a large immigrant population.

The beards are another story.

The only member of the band who is clean shaven ironically is drummer Frank Beard. Gibbons and Hall grew out their facial hair while on a break in the late ‘70’s and have never looked at a beard trimmer since. They have been offered deals by razor companies to shave and possibly even give beard grooming tips, deals that they have happily turned down. As both bearded boys explain, at this point they are afraid to see what has gone on with their faces during the 30 plus years they have been covered by hair.

The latest album by ZZ Top is chock full of references to their old ways and old music. As only they can, electric blues has been integrated perfectly with the past to create a completely fresh sound that still manages to remind us of the bands very checkered past.

If you haven’t taken the time to listen to La Futura straight through, you are missing out. Grab your air guitar and a bottle of Mexican tequila and get ready to embark on a modern blues laden musical journey that only ZZ Top is capable of delivering.