ZZ Top

The Roots of ZZ Top

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ZZ Top had a long history on the Texas blues and garage rock scene, beginning in 1963 when Rocky and Dusty Hill started the Warlocks with Frank Beard. Specializing in a kind of scruffy garage folk-rock, the Warlocks released a handful of singles on small regional labels, including the ambitious and folk-rocky “Life’s a Misery” in 1966. That same year, fellow Texan Bill Gibbons formed Moving Sidewalks, a band similar in intent and execution to the Warlocks. Moving Sidewalks released a few singles with local label Tantara Records, including the garage anthem “99th Floor,” the sneering yet alluring “Need Me,” and a wonderful, narcotic cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which sounded like the Beatles on cough syrup. The group also released the intriguing Flash LP in 1969, a record that certainly deserved more of an audience than it got. In 1967 the Warlocks changed their name to American Blues and released a pair of LPs and a single on Karma Records under that name. They weren’t really a blues band, though, despite the name, and sides like the ornate “Just Plain Jane” and “Nightmare of a Wise Man” sounded like the psychedelic side of the Byrds and Cream, respectively. Finally in 1969, Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Beard formed ZZ Top out of the remnants of all these bands, then reverted to a more straight-ahead blues-rock base, and boogied their way into mass commercial success. This set collects all of the above songs into a kind of primer of what led to the birth of ZZ Top, and it is certainly interesting as a history lesson -- but it also stands alone as a nice glimpse at some vital '60s Texas garage rock.

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