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(Credit: Ralph Arvesen)

Music

When ZZ Top toured with a travelling zoo

@TylerGolsen

The 1976 versions of ZZ Top was completely different from the MTV stalwarts that most people know them as today. No beards, no rotating guitars, and no synthesisers. But despite still being roughly half a decade away from their peak, ZZ Top was still a major draw in the 1970s.

The group already had their calling card, ‘La Grange’, and landed another top 20 hit in America with ‘Tush’ in 1975. The little ol’ band from Texas was starting to go nationwide, but they didn’t want to abandon their roots in the lone star state. Instead, they decided that they were going to bring Texas to the rest of the country.

And so the ‘Worldwide Texas Tour’ was launched. Despite the name, the tour actually only stayed in the United States during its run from May of 1976 to New Years Eve 1977. Over 98 shows, ZZ Top brought the sights, sounds, and even smells of Texas along with them across the country.

Included in their set-up was a custom 68-foot stage in the shape of the state, five different scrim screens to project images onto, 260 speakers, 13 trucks, and 50 crew members. To add authenticity, the band decided to include native plants that grew around the deserts of Texas, including yucca, agave, and cacti, to the stage set up. But that wasn’t good enough for ZZ Top. They needed to go the extra mile, and that meant breaking out the animals.

In addition to the agriculture of Texas, the band also brought along a number of animals that were native to the state, including a longhorn steer, black buffalo, two vultures, and two rattlesnakes. Animal trainers and veterinarians travelled as a part of the crew to ensure that the animals were being taken care of, and all told the entire production was insured for $10 million.

“That was the start of who could create a production to outdo the previous,” Billy Gibbons recalled in 2014. “It seemed like every week some band would have a wider stage, more lighting, more props”. The opening acts for the tour would also turn out to be legendary: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, The Band, Santana, Rush, Muddy Waters, and Roy Gallagher all opened for ZZ Top at different points throughout the trek.

Although the tour turned out to be a success, the logistical nightmare of bringing the show to Europe wound up squashing the “worldwide” part of the ‘Worldwide Texas Tour’. Still, most of America got to see what Texas was like, up close and personal, with the state’s biggest cultural ambassadors.

Check out footage from the ‘Worldwide Texas Tour’ down below.