In January 1971, ZZ Top’s First Album was released, with Billy Gibbons on guitar, Frank Beard on drums, and Dusty Hill on bass, who passed away July 28 at age 72 in his home in Houston.
The Texas blues-rock trio’s breakthrough radio success happened three years later with their John Lee Hooker inspired “La Grange,” from the group’s 1973 album Tres Hombres. Its flip side was “Just Got Paid,” from their 1972 album Rio Grande Mud. This blues song has been a concert staple for years, including their July 2021 tour.
Flip side: Just Got Paid
A side: La Grange
Top 100 debut: March 30, 1974
Peak position: No. 41
“La Grange” fell just one position shy of the Top 40 nationally, while the next single, “Tush,” became ZZ Top’s Top 40 debut, peaking at No. 20 in 1975. By the end of the decade, the trio was excitedly picked up by Warner Bros., who provided strong promotion. In November 1979, their first album for the label was released, Deguello, including their cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” and “Cheap Sunglasses,” released as singles, which received strong FM rock radio airplay in 1980.
In the mid-1980s, the trio became video stars on MTV with Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons sporting long beards, sunglasses, hats, and twirling guitars. “Legs,” from their 1983 album Eliminator, became their first Top 10 hit single and biggest record. Eliminator also reached the Top 10 album chart and sold 10 million copies.
In 2004, the Texas trio were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in 2020, the documentary ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas was released.