Cartoonish grins that spread mischievously across their faces like a Cheshire cat. Pitch-black sunglasses that would frighten a Florida Highway Patrol deputy. And those long, gray beards straight out of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Let's face it: ZZ Top might be the creepiest looking act to play a Rays Concert Series to date. And we love it!
The chicken-fried boogie-and-blues trio from Texas has been serving up roots-infused rock since 1969, decades before the current lineup of the Tampa Bay Rays was even playing T-ball.
Unlike sports franchises, "that little ol' band from Texas" has kept its original lineup — guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard — intact from the start. But its roster of hits changes by the decade, leading off with Tush and La Grange in the '70s, Cheap Sunglasses and Gimme All Your Lovin' in the '80s cleanup spot, and Viva Las Vegas and Pincushion as closers in the '90s.
Still, we've uncovered a few fun facts about the boys just in time for Saturday's show at Tropicana Field.
1 THE BEARDS: The band has reportedly fielded dozens of offers over the years to shave their trademark beards, including a much-rumored million-dollar offer by Gillette. They always say no. "We just don't know what we look like underneath," guitarist Billy Gibbons once said. "We'd probably be way too ugly." (Ironically, the band member who doesn't usually wear a beard is the drummer: Frank Beard, shown here.)
2 THE GUITARS: Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill are beloved by fans for their unique guitars. Their infamous "White Fuzzies" — a nod to the fuzzy dice trend of the '50s — are covered in fake white fur. And the duo is able to spin their guitars 360 degrees thanks to a custom-made apparatus mounted on the rear of the instruments.
3 THE MOVIES: The band has appeared in movies and TV shows. ZZ Top was the acoustic band in the Wild West dance scene alongside Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 1990's Back to the Future Part III. Their contribution appears on the soundtrack as Doubleback (a rocked-up version of which appears on their 1990 album Recycler.)
4 THE CAR: The well-known hot rod that starred in many of ZZ Top's MTV hits in the '80s is a 1933 Ford coupe that first caught Gibbons' fancy when he saw the 1974 film The California Kid. After the band retired it from videos, the car made the rounds in automobile conventions. Today, it makes its home in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
5 THE HALL: Speaking of the Hall of Fame, ZZ Top was inducted into the institution in 2004, along with Jackson Browne, Prince and Bob Seger. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was their presenter.
The Rays take on Kansas City at 6:10 p.m. Saturday. The concert is free with game ticket. Toll-free 1-888-326-7297; raysbaseball.com.
Steve Spears, Times staff writer