Did ZZ Top’s Rhythm Section Really Masquerade as the Zombies?
Even the greatest of men can rise from humble beginnings — and so it seems to be with ZZ Top's Frank Beard and Dusty Hill, who apparently spent some time in the late '60s performing as part of a knockoff version of the Zombies.
The long-lost story of Beard and Hill's faux Zombies past was dug up by Buzzfeed, and is well worth reading in its entirety. But until you can carve out a few minutes to give it your complete attention, we'll lay out the broad strokes, which rest on the shadow touring economy built out of fake bands cobbled together by shady promoters during rock's early years.
The company responsible in this particular case was called Delta Promotions, and as Buzzfeed's Daniel Ralston details in his story, they actually sent a pair of fake Zombies out on the road — all the better to take advantage of the fact that, when the group's "Time of the Season" soared up the charts in 1969, the band had been broken up for more than a year.
It was unscrupulous and illegal, but in those days, relatively few people who turned out for a show knew what band members looked like — and to get around the rest, companies like Delta employed the standard dodge of claiming their band had one original member in the lineup. The Zombies were far from the only band to fall victim, but their inactive status made them ripe for the picking when "Time of the Season" hit.
One of Delta's fake Zombies was based out of Texas — which is where Beard and Hill came in. Ralston interviewed their bandmate Mark Ramsey, who joined the duo and guitarist Sebastian "Seab" Meador in the southern Zombies, an experience he now chalks up to the "fascination of experimentation" of the era.
"I’d only been playing for a few years and the other guys were pro-level at that point," said Ramsey. "I didn’t look at it as anything more than a chance to have some fun, hang out with some cool guys, learn some songs, go somewhere outside of this Hillbillyville and earn a little money."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither Beard nor Hill consented to be interviewed for the piece, but it remains a fascinating read that touches on a number of stranger-than-fiction stories — and one that might best be summed up by Hill, who responded to e-mail fact-checking requests via a publicist: "It was the ’60s, man."
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