ZZ Top is the last band that comes to mind when discussing lineup changes.
For over 50 years, the group’s self-effacing motto was, as frontman Billy Gibbons frequently explained, “The same three guys and the same three chords.”
The classic ZZ Top lineup — Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard — got off to an inauspicious start on Feb. 10, 1970, playing their first show to a whopping one person at the Knights of Columbus Hall outside Houston. But their consistency and perseverance paid off, and the trio enjoyed a fruitful five-decade career full of sold-out arena shows, multi-platinum albums and timeless hit singles until Hill’s death on July 28, 2021.
Before they became That Little Ol’ Band From Texas, though, ZZ Top did go through a few different iterations, with Gibbons joined variously by Dan Mitchell, Lanier Greig and Billy Etheridge before establishing the winning lineup. The Texas trio stuck together like glue, and with the exception of drum tech John Douglas filling in for Beard on a handful of 2002 shows during a medical emergency, their ranks remained impenetrable.
ZZ Top’s story didn’t end with Hill’s death, either. Gibbons and Beard soldiered on in his absence with longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis, per Hill’s orders. “Dusty emphatically grabbed my arm and said, ‘Give Elwood the bottom end, and take it to the Top,'” Gibbons explained following the bassist’s death. “He meant it, amigo. He really did.”
Read on to see our guide to all of ZZ Top’s lineup changes over the years.
ZZ Top Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
Early and late lineup changes bookend over 50 years of stability.
Source: Ultimate Classic Rock