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ZZ Top is an American rock band formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. For 51 years, they comprised vocalist-guitarist Billy Gibbons, drummer Frank Beard and vocalist-bassist Dusty Hill, until Hill’s death in 2021. ZZ Top developed a signature sound based on Gibbons’ blues guitar style and Hill and Beard’s rhythm section. They are popular for their live performances, sly and humorous lyrics, and the matching appearances of Gibbons and Hill, who wore sunglasses, hats and long beards.
ZZ Top formed after the demise of Moving Sidewalks, Gibbons’ previous band, in 1969. Within a year, they signed with London Records and released ZZ Top’s First Album (1971). Subsequent releases, such as Tres Hombres (1973) and Fandango! (1975), and the singles “La Grange” and “Tush”, gained extensive radio airplay. By the mid-1970s, ZZ Top had become renowned in North America for its live act, including the Worldwide Texas Tour (1976— 1977), which was a critical and commercial success.
After a hiatus, ZZ Top returned in 1979 with a new musical direction and image, with Gibbons and Hill wearing sunglasses and matching chest-length beards. With the album El Loco (1981), they began to experiment with synthesizers and drum machines. They established a more mainstream sound and gained international success with Eliminator (1983) and Afterburner (1985), which integrated influences from new wave, punk, and dance-rock. The popularity of these albums’ music videos, including those for “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Legs”, gave them mass exposure on television channel MTV and made them prominent artists in 1980s pop culture. The Afterburner tour set records for the highest-attended and highest-grossing concert tour of 1986.
After gaining additional acclaim with the release of their tenth album Recycler (1990), and its accompanying tour, the group’s experimentation continued with mixed success on the albums Antenna (1994), Rhythmeen (1996), XXX (1999), and Mescalero (2003). They most recently released La Futura (2012) and Goin’ 50 (2019), a compilation album commemorating the band’s 50th anniversary. By the time of Hill’s death in 2021, ZZ Top had become the longest-running band with an unchanged lineup in the history of popular music. Per Hill’s wishes, he was replaced by their longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis on bass.
ZZ Top has released 15 studio albums and sold an estimated 50 million albums worldwide. They have won three MTV Video Music Awards, and in 2004, the members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Gibbons the 32nd greatest guitarist of all time. The band members have supported campaigns and charities including Childline, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and a fundraiser for the Delta Blues Museum. https://www.zztop.com
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