A short article from The New York Times, dated Jan. 1st, concerning Billy Gibbons’ upcoming resurrection of his pre-ZZ Top psych band, The Moving Sidewalks…
Before ZZ Top became a blues-rock band known for gritty, boogie-based rhythms, sizzling guitar flights, humorous lyrics and luxuriously long beards, it was a Houston-based psychedelic proto-punk garage band called the Moving Sidewalks. And though its following was decidedly regional at the time – its biggest hit, “99th Floor,” was a chart-topper in Houston for six weeks in 1967 – the group’s recordings can be found on more than half a dozen compilations of 1960s garage band tracks, not to mention the ZZ Top anthology Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box.
The group also recently released its own archival trove, Moving Sidewalks – The Complete Collection (Rockbeat Records), which brings together its only album, Flash (1969), a handful of singles (including a bruising cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand) and several outtakes. And now, with ZZ Top between tours, Billy Gibbons, the guitarist and founder of both bands, has reconvened the Moving Sidewalks for a gig – its first in 44 years – at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Manhattan on March 30.
For Mr. Gibbons, the transition from the Moving Sidewalks to ZZ Top occurred fairly smoothly.
“The Vietnam War was in full swing,” Mr. Gibbons said in a telephone conversation, “and it captured our bass player, Don Summers, and our keyboardist, Tom Moore. That left me and the drummer, Dan Mitchell, trying to figure out how in the world we were going to keep this together. We played with other people, and then the drummer twisted off, and the result was what you know as ZZ Top.
“But we all kept in touch, we kept up the correspondence, and it was quite a robust exchange. And remarkably, although I’d gone to a different planet and the other three had their day gigs, they were all weekend warriors, playing in bands here and there. So by a stroke of good fortune, when the opportunity came along, they had the interest, and had kept up their chops.”
The crew exchanged set list ideas by e-mail in the fall, and got together for rehearsals in Texas just after Christmas.
“I think they’re restricting us to a 75-minute performance,” Mr. Gibbons said. “We’ll try to persuade them to go longer, because there’s such a wealth of material.” The Sidewalks played everything from B.B. King to Zombies covers, psychedelic, blues and R&B.
Will the set list include any ZZ Top material?
“It’s not out of the question,” Mr. Gibbons said. “Fortunately, the fellows have become ZZ Top fans, and they’ve asked me, ‘What are the ZZ Top songs that you don’t play?’ So you never know.”