Do you know where did ZZ Top get its name?
It used to be commonly thought the name was a mix of Zig-Zag and TOP rolling papers. No, says Billy Gibbons in his autobiography Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead. The book mentions an apartment that Gibbons lived in, with a row of flyers on a wall. Taking notice of Z. Z. Hill and B.B. King posters, Gibbons liked the combination of "ZZ" and "King," and came up with "ZZ King." Thinking it was too much like the guitarist's name, he substituted "top" since he thought . B.B. King was on the "top."
Joseph Michael "Dusty" Hill was born in Dallas, Texas and grew up in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Dallas. Along with his brother Rocky Hill and future fellow ZZ Top member Frank Beard, Dusty Hill played in local Dallas bands the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues. From 1966 to 1968, American Blues played the Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston circuit.
In 1968, the band decided to leave the Dallas–Fort Worth area. However, guitarist Rocky Hill wanted to focus on "straight blues," while Dusty wanted the band to focus on rock. Rocky left the band and Dusty and Beard moved to Houston, joining guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons of Houston psychedelic-rockers Moving Sidewalks to become the band ZZ Top in 1969.
ZZ Top played their first gig in Beaumont, Texas at the Knights of Columbus Hall on February 10, 1970.
ZZ Top is often referred to as "That Little Ol' Band from Texas." Their style, rooted in blues-based boogie rock, has come to incorporate elements of arena, Southern, and boogie rock. After Dusty and Frank joined the group, the band began developing a following.
They were signed to London Records in 1970, and released several albums, beginning with their 1971 debut album, ZZ Top's First Album. The album was a blues-rock record filled with distorted guitars, boogie-woogie rhythms, and sexual innuendos, laying the foundation for ZZ Top's signature blues-rock sound.
The album failed to chart, though the single "(Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree" peaked at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100. After releasing their first album, the band started to attract local attention doing live shows, opening for acts like Janis Joplin, Humble Pie, Ten Years After, and Mott the Hoople.
In January 1973, ZZ Top was asked by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones to open their shows in Honolulu.
"We got word that Mick Jagger heard our first album and liked it," Dusty once told an interviewer " ... and he wanted us to open for the Stones in Hawaii. That just blew us away. But the next thing I heard was that Stevie Wonder opened for them here in the States and actually got booed at one show. So I was scared to death.
"We get onstage in Hawaii with our cowboy hats, boots and jeans and you could hear a pin drop. Somebody went, ‘Oh no, they’re a country band.’"
Untarnished, they followed in 1972 with their second album Rio Grande Mud. In 1973, the band emerged into the mainstream with the album Tres Hombres. Their 1975 follow-up Fandango! expanded on their sound and sense of humor.
By the mid-1970s, they were among the most popular touring acts in the United States and broke various concert attendance records After years of touring, the band went on a two-year break in 1977. When they reunited to start recording under a new Warner Bros. contract (taking the rights to their London recordings with them), unknown to each other, both Billy and Dusty had grown chest-length beards that became a part of ZZ Top's image.
The band hit their pinnacle with the release of 1983's diamond-selling disc Eliminator; named after Gibbons' customized 1933 Ford Coupe, which was featured in three of the band's music videos. The album featured the hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man," "TV Dinners," and "Legs" and sold over 10 million copies.
Throughout the late 1980s, the band made several hits and won several awards for music videos like "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man."
ZZ Top has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, including 25 million albums in the US alone. The band scored 8 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, six number one Mainstream Rock hits, and three MTV Video Music Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
After over 40 years of performing with the same members, the band continues to tour and record music.