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ZZ Top are more than just beards

The iconic rock band will perform at the OC Fair Thursday.

July 31, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top will play Thursday in the OC Fair's summer concert series.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top will play Thursday in… (Ross Halfin )

ZZ Top, which will play Thursday night at the OC Fair, consists of two beards and one Beard.

The blues-rock trio, whose career dates back more than four decades, is famous for its hirsute appearance. But ironically, the one member who doesn't sport a furry chin is drummer Frank Beard.

The first word of that name, ZZ Top, sounds like the noise an electric razor makes. And that's a sound Beard must hear a lot more than guitarist Billy Gibbons or bassist Dusty Hill, since he uses a razor more often.

In fact — oh, just go ahead and write your own lede to this story. Whatever pun you can make, whatever insight you can provide about the ZZ Top drummer's appearance, he's heard it already. He may be enduring it right now, actually.

"If we have six shows in a week, he hears it six times; if we have five shows, he hears it five times," Gibbons, serving as the group's spokesman, said by email Tuesday. "When we're off the road, I sometimes call him up and mention it so he doesn't forget between tours."

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With the possible exception of Dolly Parton, no modern musical act may be as famous for a physical attribute as ZZ Top. Last year, the media reported that Gibbons and Hill turned down a $1-million offer to shave for a Gillette commercial. Even Bill Watterson's comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," which almost never contained pop-culture references, once had Calvin voicing a desire to grow a long beard "like the guys in ZZ Top."

Sure enough, the website for this year's Pacific Amphitheatre concert series features a silhouetted portrait of the band from the cover of its new "La Futura" album, with the two whiskered members serving as bookends. But those who don't know ZZ Top beyond the hair jokes and radio hits may be surprised at the depth of their accomplishments.

For one thing, they're Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, having been inducted in 2004. They're blues preservationists, having raised money for the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss. — to the point where, in the words of museum staffer Maie Smith, "a lot of people thought we were the ZZ Top fan club."

And they're the rare band that's kept the same lineup for more than 40 years — certainly more than the Beach Boys, the Who or the Rolling Stones can say. So what's the band's secret to longevity? As far as Gibbons is concerned, it's no secret.

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