The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

ZZ Top/Houston - Most people know them only by their collective name, but ZZ Top consists of three very distinct individuals: Bassist Dusty Hill (left) and guitarist Billy F Gibbons (right), and drummer Frank Beard (seated), pictured here at the Old Humble Barbershop in Humble, TX. The band keeps its business headquarters in Austin, although all three principals live in Houston.

ZZ Top became a household word after its "World-Wide Texas Tour" in 1976. The band's Texas-shaped stage, adorned with a real live buffalo, Longhorn steer, buzzards and rattlesnakes made a vivid - and permanent - impression on those who attended the concerts. Since then, the band has continued its tradition of "Takin' Texas to the People," with mythic concerts across the United States and in international venues as far afield as Japan, Russia, Latvia and South Africa. The band's trademark hillbilly beards, sunglasses, Harleys, hot rods and key chains and droll, synchronized stage antics - not to mention the shapely, dancing girls on stage - cemented the band's quirky, Delta blues-based image. And ZZ Top's famous songs Legs, Sharp-Dressed Man and Gimme All Your Lovin' imprinted the band's persona on at least two generations.

"That little ol' band from Texas," as the band is affectionately called, has been honored as "Official Texas Heroes" by the Texas House of Representatives, and been nominated by Saturday Night Live as a write-in candidate for president. ZZ Top even performed at President George W. Bush's inaugural celebration, in a show billed as "The Best Little Ball in D.C."

The band's other claim to fame: it has offered its services to NASA as the lounge band for the first passenger flight to the moon. Incidentally, neither Gibbons nor Hill has had a close encounter with scissors since 1979.