7 Interesting Facts And Stories About ‘La Grange’ By ZZ Top
via The Howard Stern Show/YouTube
An Essential ZZ Top Song
ZZ Top rose to prominence in the ’70s. While their music was initially rooted in blues, it has evolved over time. The Texas blues-rock trio didn’t shy away from experimenting with different sounds and styles. They eventually struck gold with the release of their third studio album, Tres Hombres.
One of their best known and most successful songs on the said LP was “La Grange”. Here are seven facts about it:
1. It’s about a whorehouse.
This isn’t exactly surprising since the trio had penchant for sexual innuendos for their lyrics. “The Chicken Ranch,” or Miss Edna’s Boarding House in La Grange, was a fairly old establishment, and several people in Texas knew about it. It was closed down because of a reporter from Houston who challenged the governor as to why it continued to operate.
2. The line “ten to get yourself in” was the price.
The patrons also followed a strict dress code.
3. The place this song was about became the subject of the 1982 film titled “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, which starred Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.
“Did you ever see the movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? That’s what it’s about,” bassist Dusty Hill told SPIN magazine. “I went there when I was 13. A lot of boys in Texas, when it’s time to be a guy, went there and had it done. Fathers took their sons there.”
“You couldn’t cuss in there. You couldn’t drink. It had an air of respectability,” he recalled. “Miss Edna wouldn’t stand for no bulls–t. That’s the woman that ran the place, and you know she didn’t look like Dolly Parton, either. I’ll tell you, she was a mean-looking woman.”
4. The song was based on a traditional boogie blues rhythm used by John Lee Hooker in “Boogie Chillen'”.
Almost 20 years after the release of “La Grange”, Bernard Besman, who owned the copyright to “Boogie Chillen,” sued ZZ Top. It didn’t go anywhere, because the court ruled that “Boogie Chillen” was in the public domain.
5. At the time, it was ZZ Top’s biggest hit.
Even though it only peaked at #41 on the US Billboard Hot 100, it charted in several countries.
6. Speaking about how he got his guitar sound in this classic, Billy Gibbons told Guitar World: “That is straight guitar into amp, a 1955 Strat with a stop-tailpiece through a 1969 Marshall Super Lead 100.”
“That fuzz sound in the lead and in the front and back end of the composition is just pure tube distortion,” he added. “Pickup-setting differentials account for the different tones. The opening part was played on what we used to call ‘the mystery setting’ in the dark days before the existence of the five-way toggle switch, when finding that perfect ‘tweener required dedication.”
7. They found their sound with “La Grange”.
“The simplicity of that song was part of the magic – only two chords,” Gibbons told Rolling Stone. “And the break coming out of the solo – those notes are straight Robert Johnson. He did it as a shuffle. I just dissected the notes.”