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40 Years Ago: ZZ Top Put It on Cruise Control for ‘Tejas’

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ZZ Top kept the pedal to the metal for most of the early ’70s, churning out album after album and touring relentlessly across the country behind a string of popular songs like “La Grange” and “Tush.”

When the latter broke into the Top 20 in 1975, band members Billy Gibbons (vocals and guitar), Dusty Hill (bass and vocals) and Frank Beard (drums) found themselves headlining arenas and even stadiums on the Worldwide Texas Tour, so one could almost forgive them for putting their hot rod on cruise control when the time came to record their next album, Tejas.

Released in November 1976, ZZ’s fifth LP revealed a mellower, almost country-flavored side to the normally gritty blues rockers. On tunes like “It’s Only Love” and “El Diablo,” Gibbons’ guitar had about as much sweetness as it had bite; on “She’s a Heartbreaker,” somebody whipped out a fiddle and accordion, and on the instrumental “Asleep in the Desert,” it was Spanish guitars.

Still, Beard kept the rhythm snappy on “Enjoy and Get It On,” Hill applied his signature growl to “Ten Dollar Man” and Gibbons brought out his best slide work for “Pan Am Highway Blues.” But most fans agree that the album’s best song was the hilarious “Arrested for Driving While Blind.”

And as quickly as they’d gotten off the road to cut these tracks, ZZ Top got right back on it — so quickly they didn’t even bother changing the name of the ongoing Worldwide Texas Tour, which wouldn’t wrap up until the end of 1977.

As for Tejas, no amount of touring could stall a slight sales decline, as the album’s first single, “It’s Only Love,” topped out at No. 44 and “Arrested for Driving While Blind” stalled at No. 91. Then, in 1978, the band shut down operations, taking some much-needed time off to recharge and emerge refreshed and ready to rock with 1979’s fierce Deguello.

ZZ Top Albums Ranked Worst to Best

Next: Top 10 ZZ Top Songs

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