ZZ Top, Jeff Beck play at Ravinia

ZZ Top performs at Ravinia Aug. 28.
ZZ Top performs at Ravinia Aug. 28.

Music legends ZZ Top and Jeff Beck perform on a co-bill at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, along with opener Tyler Bryant on Aug. 28.

The iconic American trio, ZZ Top, famous for the members’ long-flowing beards and hits like “La Grange,” “Legs,” and “Sharp Dressed Man,” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. ZZ Top founding member and guitarist, Billy Gibbons recently discussed the band and it’s music.

Q: You formed ZZ Top when you were 20 years old. You’ll turn 65 at the end of the year. What has kept this band running so long and so successfully over the years?

A: The ZZ Top longevity secret isn’t really a secret at all. You can see it for yourself when attending any one of the band’s performances: it’s about having a good time and that good time has continued more than 4 decades. There ain’t a detour when it’s rockin’ night after night. Certainly so!

Q: Fame didn’t come immediately to ZZ Top. Looking back now, as a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, in a band that has achieved world-wide renown, top chart hits and gold records, did you ever doubt this band would be a success?

A: The combination of this three-guy trio felt exactly right from the very start. It was a natural assumption things would work out. The reality is there wasn’t an awareness of any initial success as we were too busy touring. Let it be said the initial breakthrough came as quite a pleasant surprise.

Q: The iconic beards. What’s the story?

A: “Evolve” may be the right world because these beards were not necessarily calculated. There was however a lengthy break and hadn’t seen each other for quite some time though we did keep in touch by phone in those pre-internet days. When the band reconvened in the flesh, there was no shortage of an amazement seeing some rather impressive and luxuriant chin whiskers. It made the grade that the sprouts happened without specific consultation. It was like a match-made set of bookends to some extent. ZZ Top’s fearless drummer of course, has the last name “Beard” so he’s always been way ahead of the curve, at least conceptually.

Q: Is it true Jimi Hendrix taught you some guitar licks when you were 17? How big of an influence was Jimi on your music?

A: Yes, it’s quite true. We share concert bills with him in our pre-ZZ group, The Moving Sidewalks. Jimi was a generous guy, fun loving and sort of shy. However, Jimi’s love of the guitar transcended all. There were things being done on his electric guitar that probably weren’t being imagined by the designers. To say Jimi Hendrix had an influence is a slight understatement: there’s Hendrix… and then there’s Hendrix.

Q: What is touring like now for you? Is it more relaxed?

A: The early days of making the rounds was standard. Existing in a van stuffed with beer and gear…! Now the preference tends to lean toward travel by motor coach, more as a rolling apartment. More like staying “at home” while hitting the road. It’s waaaaay different.

Q: Your upcoming show at Ravinia has Jeff Beck on the bill. Two separate shows? Any collaboration with Beck?

A: Jeff will have a set, ZZ Top will have a set but we’ll definitely do some playing together. In essence, it’s two concerts plus a bonus round.

Q: Any unmet goals? What’s next?

A: We really enjoy acting on “Bones.” The cast and crew are like a second family so we’re looking forward to yet another season, as well as getting some new songs down on “wax” or whatever the medium of the moment happens to be.

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ZZ Top and Jeff Beck, opener Tyler Bryant

Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park

Thursday, Aug. 28; gates open 4 p.m., concert starts at 6:30 p.m.

Lawn tickets only available, $38, or $43 at the gate

(847) 266-5100

ravinia.org

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