Texas music lovers hold ZZ Top especially dear. After 50 years, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard feel more like friends than rock icons.
Here at The Wittliff Collections, we love ’em, too.
The new Netflix documentary “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” sent lead archivist Katie Salzmann digging a little deeper into the band’s past, inspired by the scene where Gibbons describes opening for Jimi Hendrix with his band the Moving Sidewalks in the late 1960s.
Pieces of that first band’s legacy can be found in Austin record collector Doug Hanners’ archives, as well as in Sam Kinsey’s preserved Teen Canteen collection – old publicity photos and canceled checks.
It’s notable that the legendary guitarist and legendary guitarist-to-be forged a friendship, maybe because the Moving Sidewalks were kooky enough to play Hendrix hits “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze” in their opening set. In today’s vernacular: Awkward!
The Moving Sidewalks hailed from Houston and included Gibbons, bassist Don Summers, drummer Dan Mitchell, and organist Tom Moore. Hailed as early psychedelic rockers, the Moving Sidewalks combined elements of Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “Just Like Me,” the Young Rascals’ “In the Midnight Hour” and the Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard.” It’s reflected in its most famous single, “99th Floor.”
San Antonio musicians and Hendrix fans Marius Perron and Steve Owens were in the audience at Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio on February 15, 1968, when the Moving Sidewalks committed its famous faux pas. It was the first date of a handful of opening act gigs in Texas on that tour.
Perron, a Grammy-winning recording engineer these days, still recalls turning to his younger brother as the Moving Sidewalks began playing the Hendrix songs “way too fast.”
“Those guys are such (bleep),” said Perron with a chuckle, recounting what he told his brother in the din.
“It was such a mistake to do that. Billy Gibbons hadn’t developed his badass persona. He was wearing glasses and dancing around.”
At another show, Perron made a bootleg recording of the Moving Sidewalks at Kinsey’s Teen Canteen club with a Montgomery Ward tape recorder. He still has the distorted audio artifact.
Owens said the Moving Sidewalks reminded him of the Seeds. He’s a huge Gibbons fan but admits he wasn’t too impressed with him then.
“He just got so good later on. It’s like Robert Johnson’s deal with the devil.”
Gibbons has often recounted how Hendrix stood in the wings with a grin on his face watching the group butcher his songs and what he told Gibbons afterward: “I like you. You’ve got a lot of nerve.”