Guess who’s comin’ around, to that Texas town, in the dome just south of Belton?
DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE
From Belton to Bangkok to Brisbane, the boys of ZZ Top traveled the world together for more than 50 years.
Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard rode together, ate together, partied together and played together. In short, ZZ Top spent a heck of a lot of time as a close-knit band.
“Lots of time together is exactly the way to express it,” Billy said earlier today. “After spending open-ended swaths of hours on end with specific people, you really get to know what’s up. Behaviors become unsettlingly predictable. When one of us makes a sudden left turn on stage, we can actually anticipate it. I think after all the time we spent together, our DNA may have changed.”
ZZ Top was formed in Houston in late 1969 when elements of two local bands decided to join forces. The chemistry between Gibbons, Hill and Beard was immediate, and soon the trio hit the road to bring their rock-infused blues to the masses one bar at a time.
“We began making the rounds in a Ford Econoline,” Billy said. “The band, the crew, the equipment — we were all in that van together. Over the years, the transformation into a proper touring coach stepped it up a bit, but the goal remains the same: Get to the next destination and crank it up.”
ZZ Top will make its fourth appearance at the Bell County Expo Center on Friday, April 21. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 20. Like in the previous three Belton shows, the band will belt out longstanding favorites such as La Grange, Sharp-Dressed Man and Legs, but there will be a big difference this time around — Dusty is gone.
Hill died in his sleep last August at age 72. He has been seamlessly replaced by Billy’s guitar tech, Elwood Frances, and the band keeps “rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel…”
“Before he passed, Dusty knew he might be out a bit,” Billy recalled. “It was his idea to bring Elwood into the fold — he already knew the ropes. Elwood tipped his hat and agreed to take the reins.”
He even grew the trademark beard in honor of his predecessor.
Before becoming the new bassist for ZZ Top, Elwood served as Gibbons personal guitar technician and travelled with the band. He also played guitar in Mighty Skullhead, a punk-rock band, and played harmonica in Gibbons’ solo touring band.
“Elwood, like Dusty, is a stellar talent in his own right,” Billy said. “With Elwood bashing out ‘the bottom of the Top,’ we sound like us.”
After parts of seven decades of recording, touring and entertaining, fans have been speculating for years that each tour may be the band’s last. Each time they have been wrong.
“Our last tour?” Billy asked. “I’ll tell you this: The plan now is the same as always, and that’s to keep on keepin’ on.”
“We’ve still got some fresh musical tricks up our sleeve, so it’s beyond possible that we’ve got something new around the corner,” he said. “We will get to it pronto. We’re still having fun.”
For example, Billy said Elwood recently picked up a 17-string bass guitar introduced by a pal of the band, Jared Dines.
“I said, ‘Great, Elwood, what are we gonna do with it.’ He replied: ‘Anything with one chord will fit this thing nicely.’”
Elwood broke the 17-string out on stage at several 2022 concerts for the hit song, You’ve Got Me Under Pressure.
The band’s Raw Whiskey Tour is in support of their latest album, Raw.