Why ZZ Top Frontmen Have Beards
via Rolling Stone / Youtube
Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to ZZ Top’s music (which is a very regrettable thing), you undoubtedly recognize their frontmen. Y’know, the ones with the matching long beard, hats, and sunglasses.
It’s challenging to think of any contemporary artists pulling off such a distinctive look – imagine a boy band attempting to sport beards like that! Thank the rock gods, their music can back them up.
True rockers like Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill are the only rock deities that can pull off such iconic looks, especially such impressive facial hair. How did it all begin though?
The late Dusty Hill chalked it up to pure coincidence. The members of ZZ Top decided to take some time off in the late 70s. When they came back to make music again, the two vocalists realized they were sporting identical facial hair.
Dusty Hill didn’t think their beards would become iconic
Hill had shared in an interview the tale of how his and his bandmate’s beards took shape. He described a period when he didn’t see his bandmate for over a year and detailed the unexpected turn of events:
“Well, I had a regular beard, and when we took some time off between ’76 and ’79, we all traveled individually. I didn’t see Billy for about 1¼ years – he was over here in Europe, and I was down in Mexico,” the bassist-vocalist explained.
Dusty ditched trimming his beard after spending some time in a small fishing village. Little did they know what awaited them. He went on to say:
“And I came back, and my beard was getting rather long, and Billy’s was too! I definitely didn’t think it would turn into a look.”
Billy Gibbons thought they were just lazy and stayed that way
Billy Gibbons, on the other hand, thought that their laziness contributed to their majestic beards. “I think we’re lazy (laughs). Forget the blades, stay lazy,” he commented.
The guitarist also fondly remembered the post-vacation meeting where they saw each other’s beards. “[Band manager] Bill [Ham] called a band meeting, and when the three members arrived, they noticed something had changed during their time apart. They had always had some form of facial hair… Things were quite different now,” Gibbons shared.
He walked into the meeting and was surprised that his friend and bandmate was sporting the same long beard that he had.
“I walk into the room, and I’m lookin’ at a guy I think I know. My beard has grown to doormat proportions. And I realize that Dusty had done the same thing,” Gibbons remarked.
They turned down a million-dollar offer to shave their beards
Nevertheless, the beards remained, and after signing with a new record company, their success began to flourish – almost as much as their facial hair.
In 1984, the Gillette razor company even proposed a lucrative ad campaign featuring their razors shaving off the beards of these musicians. It seemed like a fantastic idea, and it would have undoubtedly attracted a massive audience.
But when Gillette offered ZZ Top a million dollars to help the company realize their dream ad, Gibbons had this to say:
“No dice. Even adjusted for inflation, this isn’t going to fly. The prospect of seeing oneself in the mirror clean-shaven is too close to a Vincent Price film… a prospect not to be contemplated, no matter the compensation.”
Two beards, and a Beard
The 2004 Rock ‘n Roll Hall-of-Fame inductees started their journey in 1969 as a four-piece band that included keyboards. A year later, they settled into the iconic lineup you see today.
And yes, ZZ Top has three members – this lineup isn’t just two guys. This common omission was thanks to the third member, which is the drummer, sporting a clean look, despite having the last name ‘Beard’. Two beards, and a Frank Beard. Quite the coincidence, isn’t it?
Fast forward a few years, and the trio faced a setback with their 1976 album Tejas and subsequent tour. They decided to take a two-year break without so much as talking to each other.
When they reconvened to brainstorm ways to reinvent themselves, two out of the three members showed up with what could only be described as brooms hanging from their faces. And the rest was rock history.