Inspiration can strike at any moment.

For some bands, the pre-show soundcheck is a necessary-but-uneventful nightly ritual to test levels and maybe work out a few kinks in the set; ZZ Top saw it as an opportunity to be creative. As bassist Dusty Hill tells UCR, it resulted in one of their biggest hits, "Tush."

"We used to record all of our soundchecks on a little cassette, just in case we came up with something," he recalls. "We’d just be farting around, doing old songs or new songs, whatever. [Guitarist] Billy [Gibbons] started playing that riff and I started singing. What came off the top of my head, to show you how demented I am, I mean, they’re not exactly Bob Dylan-type lyrics. Only a couple of words were ever changed before we recorded it. It’s just like we did it at that soundcheck."

Released on 1975's Fandango, "Tush" became ZZ Top's first Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 20. Hill credits the years he and drummer Frank Beard spent in bands together -- including one where they pretended to be the Zombies -- before hooking up with Gibbons in giving the band the foundation and confidence to keep trying new ideas.

Listen to ZZ Top's 'Tush'

The magic that resulted in "Tush," he notes, "just doesn’t happen very often. We’ve been trying to do that again for a long time." Still, it provides an example of how they've been able to take a germ of an idea and run with it.

"[Billy] started something," Hill says. "The riff was different, so I went ahead and put some lyrics to it and, with very little change, the next time we went in the studio, we recorded it. It’s not 'Stairway to Heaven.' It’s not this intricate [thing], which I can appreciate too. I mean, we’ve written some crazy-*** songs. It’s a basic song, but it’s got balls."

 

ZZ Top Albums Ranked