when texan bearded bards become global icons


Half a century after their first concerts, they are still there. Well almost: on July 28, 2021, the group ZZ Top lost one of its members, bassist Dusty Hill. A good reason to review this film by Canadian Sam Dunn, anthropologist, himself a musician, whose quality of work we noticed on Iron Maiden, in 2008, and Alice Cooper, in 2014.

What is most remarkable is that, since 1969, Billy F. Gibbons, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill had been playing together with undiminished pleasure – ZZ Top, moreover, gave a concert in early August 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a few days later the bassist’s death.

Beyond their beards, their hits and their world-famous music videos, the ZZ Top are part of the heritage, with their immediately identifiable sound, their heady rhythms, their well-balanced mix of blues and rock. Sam Dunn manages, in this dive into the heart of the phenomenon that is ZZ Top, That Little Ol’Band From Texas, to make a half-century career a musical history of America. The three cranks have always claimed their Texan heritage, with pride, humor and tenderness.

Read the focus (in 2016): Article reserved for our subscribers Bearded, pirates and autonomous at the Eurockéennes de Belfort

The quality of the testimonials (musicians, producers), the profusion of filmed archives, in particular of concerts dating from the 1970s, and even the appearance of a few animated scenes, make this documentary a delight to enjoy without dipping your beard in your Bud (weiser)…

Dozens of anecdotes

It is in Houston (Texas) that the three musicians with the growing beard meet, after various experiences with random success. In 1969, Shuffle in C, instrumental blues, marks the real birth of the trio, which was almost called ZZ King – but it sounded less good… Amazed, Bill Ham, producer and manager, throws at them: “I will make you stars! »

The following ? Dozens of anecdotes, including that of this mythical concert in Alvin, in the depths of Texas, in front of… a single spectator! These three memorable concerts given in Honolulu, in the first part of the Rolling Stones. Or this insane tour called “Texas Tour”, during which the trio was accompanied by some local beasts: bison, cow with long horns, snakes, birds of prey…

After the colossal success of this tour, “we all needed to rest, to take a step back”, will they explain. A three-month break that will last… two years. Frank, addicted to drugs, goes to rehab. Billy discovers punk in England and strange beliefs in India. “Success is a great thing, but it can also screw you up,” summarized Dusty. Important hair detail: Billy, Dusty and Frank didn’t shave during this break. Their long beards will become legendary. Just like the small Texan group that has become a global icon.

ZZ Top, That Little Ol’Band from Texas, by Sam Dunn (UK, 2019, 90 mins). On Arte.tv until April 13.