Well, we started the discussion of the best American rock ‘n’ roll band with Aerosmith, and therefore it only seems appropriate to end with a discussion of ZZ Top. A bit predictable, perhaps . . . but ZZ Top, a power trio from Texas, has recorded some of the best blues/boogie rock ever. It also was ahead of its time in “branding” itself. Two of the band members, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, are instantly recognizable to even non-fans through their long beards and cheap sunglasses. .
We shouldn’t let the iconic nature of the ZZ Top brand detract from an appreciation of the band’s music. I bought my first ZZ Top album, Tres Hombres, when I was in high school. The 35 years later, the music still is great. La Grange, with its quiet, ticking, mumbled intro abruptly turning into a power rock anthem, is a classic. That song was unique in that era for consisting almost entirely of taut guitar solos and drum fills, with almost no vocals. Jesus Just Left Chicago, on the other hand, shows the band’s capabilities on blues-flavored rock — also powered almost entirely by instrumental solos. By the early 1980s, when ZZ Top and its flying red 1930s coupe were staples on MTV, the band still produced great music. Legs and Gimme All Your Lovin’ are classic rock ‘n’ roll songs, and after Kish and I moved back to Columbus I was glad to find that one of the local rock stations, Q-FM 96, often played Sharp Dressed Man at 7 a.m. on the dot, as I was driving to work. There are few better ways to get a suit-clad young lawyer moving at the beginning of a long day!
ZZ Top doesn’t have the same breadth of styles as other groups on our list, but the timeless quality of their music should command respect. The Ipod features many ZZ Top tunes, including Waitin’ For the Bus, Blue Jean Blues, La Grange, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Move on Down the Line, What Would You Do, Tush, Tube Snake Boogie, Rough Boy, and I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.
Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for the Best American Band!