The roots of the ZZ Top originated in Houston Texas. During the late 1960s, guitarist Billy Gibbons formed a band together with other members Lanier Greig (keyboards) and drummer Dan Mitchell. Immediately after they recorded their first single “Salt Lick”, Greig was replaced by another bassist Bobby Cartlidge and Frank Beard took Mitchell’s place.
After many record companies ignored them, ZZ Top was offered a contract from London Records. Cartlidge wasn’t keen on the deal and quit the band soon after; he was replaced by Dusty Hill as the new bassist The triumvirate of Gibbons, Hill and Beard would form ZZ Top’s classic and enduring lineup.
ZZ Top released their debut album, aptly titled ZZ Top’s First Album in 1971; the second album Rio Grande Mud followed in 1972. Both of these albums exhibited the band’s strong blues roots, local brand of humor and sometimes even their brashness.
Signing up with Warner Bros. Records
The group’s third album Tres Hombres was their breakthrough into the mainstream, making it their first Top 10 pop album and gaining national acclaim for the band. In 1975, they released Fandango! which went to #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
They decided to take a break from their rigorous activities. After that they switched labels to Warner Brothers Records and released their first album there Deguello(1979) which spawned the Top 40 hit “I Thank You” (at #34). They followed this up with 1981’s El Loco.
Huge commercial success with Eliminator album
These releases would only be an indication of brighter things to come for the group. In 1983, ZZ Top released their eighth studio album Eliminator that catapulted them into stardom. Eliminator was both a critical and commercial triumph, and sold more than 10 million copies in the US alone. It also went multiplatinum in the UK, Australia, Canada and Germany. The album’s single “Legs” became their first Top 10 hit, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100.
Rather unlikely, the pointy-bearded guys became the darlings of MTV as their music videos had been played in an almost regular basis. ZZ Top won their first trophies from the MTV Music Video Awards in different categories — “Best Group Video” for their “Legs” and Best Direction for “Sharp Dressed Man” music video.
More platinum successes with Afterburner, Recycler and Greatest Hits albums
ZZ Top would follow their staggering success with another albumAfterburner in 1985. It sold five million copies in the US, and also went platinum in the UK and Finland. It also went on to become ZZ Top’s best-performing album on the Billboard 200, peaking at #4.Afterburner spawned three hits: “Sleeping Bag” (their second Top 10 hit pop at #8), “Stages” (at #21) and “Rough Boy” (at #22). Afterburner saw the successful fusion of their famous blues rock along with synthesizers, as the former made up the dominant 1980s musical style. They embraced whatever trend that crossed their path — MTV in particular — they even benefitted greatly from it. ZZ Top supported the album with their extensive and rigorous Afterburner World Tour that continued for over a year.
Continuing with the musical trend, ZZ Top released Recycler in 1990 which became a platinum seller in the US and other countries. ZZ Top released their third compilation album simply titled Greatest Hits in 1992, garnering millions of copies around the world particularly in France, where the album went diamond. It also sold three million copies in the US.
Moving to RCA Records
The band moved to RCA Records to the tune of $35 million dollars. They releasedAntenna in 1994, witnessing their return to their guitar-based sound. Several other albums on the RCA label followed Rhythmeen (1996), XXX (1999) and Mescalero(2003), didn’t get the band any certifications but had respectable showings on the Billboard 200 chart. They, however, remained a very popular live concert draw. In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Still going strong
Since 1970, the original nucleus of ZZ Top has remained unchanged, still with Gibbons, Hill and Beard. In 2008, ZZ Top released Live from Texas DVD/Blu-ray, chronicling their November 2007 concert at the Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas. The DVD sold very well, going double platinum in the US, and five times platinum in Canada. In 2012, the band released their latest album La Futura in 2012, which was met with mostly warm reviews from critics, and some of them consider the songs in the album the best that the band have put out in many years. It peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200.