10 Best ZZ Top Songs, the Quintessential Blues-Rock Band

The quintessential blues-rock band, ZZ Top came to define the genre in its contemporary form as they put out hit after hit during the late ’70s into the ’80s. Their high-powered singles like ‘Gimme All Your Lovin” and ‘Tush’ solidified their rock mastery, and classics like ‘Just Got Paid’ proved they could finesse the finer points of the blues in a more polished way than rock greats before them.

Known as “that little ol’ band from Texas” after cutting their teeth in the gritty music scene surrounding Houston, their lonestar roots eventually gained international praise thanks to their contributions to both rock and blues genres. From controversial releases like ‘Legs’ to the surprisingly gentle ‘Rough Boy,’ here are our takes on the best ZZ Tops songs out there.

10. Waitin’ for the Bus

Released on one of their most talked about albums to date, Tres Hombres, this funky number kickstarts the track listing. ‘Waitin’ for the Bus’ was an early ZZ Top effort, and you can tell they hadn’t quite found “their sound” yet during the production of the track. Even though it’s not one of their signature efforts, it has an irresistible beat thanks to drummer Frank Beard’s prowess, and the guitar work and groovy bass line hold down the tune. It’s always been one of bass player Dusty Hill’s favorites.

9. Got Me Under Pressure

Driving guitar and vocal trade-offs between bandmates Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons help this track stay true to its name by creating restrained tension. ‘Got Me Under Pressure’ contains some pretty intense lyrics like, “She’s about all I can handle, it’s too much for my brain.” But Gibbons insists the tune, which goes into specifics about the woman in question from her food preferences to bedroom antics, isn’t about anyone real. The inspiration behind the song came to him in a random moment of free time he had on his hands.

8. Jesus Just Left Chicago

12-bar blues in all its spiritual glory can be found in ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago,’ a Robert Johnson-inspired track often played in tandem with ‘Waitin’ for the Bus’ when the two singles first hit radio stations. The Johnson blues turnaround is featured throughout the slow-burner; you can hear the descending riff each time Gibbons is about to start a new progression. Lyrics mention greats like “Muddy Waters” and early blues location hubs like “New Orleans.” To fans of both the blues and ZZ Top, this is more than just a grooving single. It’s often described as a “hymn.” This Tres Hombres staple wasn’t a huge hit, but it’s just as moving now as it was when they first released it.

Related: Check out our pick of great Muddy Waters songs where we dive into the world of the great bluesman (you’ll thank us for it.)

7. Just Got Paid

Even during ZZ Top’s beginner years as a band (this was released in 1972), they were producing bonafide blues-rock gems. Frontman Billy Gibbons wrote ‘Just Got Paid,’ which finds the guitarist singing about a Friday night out on the town after getting some cold hard cash after a hard week of work. Gibbons struts through the whole song, holding down a badass riff that echoes between vocal lines. The tune wasn’t a hit for the group because it represents such an early part of their stellar body of work. Despite that, it’s become a highly covered song by blues-rock musicians over the years, including a cleanly-delivered live rendition by contemporary blues great, Joe Bonamassa.

6. Rough Boy

80s rock is once again on full display with ‘Rough Boy,’ a ballad that shows a more gentle side of the powerhouse trio. Throughout their career, they’ve experimented several times with blending different genres to their blues-rock sound. Hints of synthesized pop immediately come to the forefront with this track. The digital world of recording had taken over analog by the time of the song’s release in 1985, so a more compressed, programmed sound is present. Gibbons has said in interviews, in an effort to broaden the scope of what they release, they get into “character” for these songs to try and appeal to their rowdy audience a bit more. In this case, despite the tune’s soft rock feel, they counteracted that with a “rough boy” main character.

5. Legs

The ’80s produced a ton of over-the-top music with uplifting, dynamic instrumentation, and all those feel-good vibes can be heard with the band’s ’84 top 10 hit, ‘Legs.’ By the mid.-’80s, ZZ Top had established themselves as one of America’s most in-demand acts, and the Billboard standings reflected that. As they continued to stay on the cusp of the ever-changing musical landscape, they took their gritty Texas blues sound of the ’70s and charged it up, adding sleeker production and bigger sounding instrumentation to give their releases a more polished effect. One of a few controversial hits the rock band has released over the years, ‘Legs’ is a solid addition to their repertoire and is definitely “on-brand.” The long-loved song is about a gorgeous woman with killer stems who knows how to use them.

4. Tush

This 1975 hit put the little ol’ band from Texas on the map. Breaking into the top 20 on American charts, the controversial but oh-so-catchy ‘Tush’ caught on like wildfire due to its infectious fast-rocking beat and playful lyrics. While some were offended by the theme, in similar fashion to the band’s other controversial single ‘Legs,’ ZZ Top hasn’t ever been the type of band to back down. They gently reminded folks that their hit song is indeed “gender-neutral.” Throughout the years, female artists have strengthened that point by covering the bluesy tune themselves. Miranda Lambert’s live version is an especially fun one to watch – ZZ Top even backs her up on stage for the performance. For the original recording, bassist Dusty Hill stepped up to the mic for rousing, blues-filled lead vocals. This anthemic single made their group a commercial commodity, and it comes in on our list pretty high at number 4.

Related: This rocker appears on our list of best 12 bar blues songs.

3. Gimme All Your Lovin’

ZZ Top were pioneers of several trends in the early ’80s. They jumped on the music video bandwagon early with MTV, recognizing before many others the value the visual medium would have with their music in the coming decade. They also were early adopters of the synthesizer, a huge instrument trend that would have staying power throughout the ’80s. ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’,’ a perfect example of ’80s rock, was the first ZZ Top recording to utilize the synthesizer. Their use of it helped the instrument gain ground in rock communities. After the song’s release, Van Halen began experimenting with the electronic interface as well. Though the tune was a first for the band from an instrumentation standpoint, lyrically the top 40 hit was a tried-and-true storyline – a sexually-charged setting featuring a young man with plenty of swagger romanticizing a beautiful woman.

2. Sharp Dressed Man

Even if you’re not a ZZ Top fan, chances are you’ve heard this song. It’s long been a part of American pop culture, even the popular show Duck Dynasty used it as their longstanding theme song. Echoing a universal truth, every girl is indeed crazy about a sharp dressed man, the ear-worm of a single is still often played on radio stations today. Known as one of their trademark tracks, it’s hard to believe the song itself wasn’t a huge chart success. However the album it’s on, Eliminator, was a legendary multi-platinum success. This iconic blues-rock number takes the runner-up spot, coming in at number 2.

Related: This one appears in our playlist of songs about looking sharp (of course 😉

1. La Grange

Quite possibly one of rock’s most iconic songs, each layer of ‘La Grange’ perfectly encapsulates the “Texas rock” sound ZZ Top developed and fine-tuned. From the driving guitar riff that immediately makes you want to hop on a motorcycle and fly down an open road, to the gravelly vocal lines that emit sounds you have to sing along with, “A haw, haw, haw, haw,” this little tune made the rounds in the Texas music scene before blowing up nationally. Guitarist Billy Gibbons took a John Lee Hooker rhythmic blues riff from ‘Boogie Chillen” and polished it up for this single. The rocking track is full of swagger and has an air of male virility. This is for good reason, ‘La Grange’ was written about an infamous brothel in the small Texas town located on a rural ranch. The boys even visited a time or two in their younger days – it was seen as a rite of passage. Nowadays, thanks to commercial success, the single has rightfully reached mythic status in rock and roll history, and it’s easy to understand why it takes the top spot on our ZZ Top countdown.

Related: Check out ‘Boogie Chillen” in our pick of the best John Lee Hooker songs (a must-read if you enjoyed this article.) ‘La Grange’ also appears in our playlist of best rock songs of all time.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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