ZZ Top's Tush.
There are a ton of songs about or inspired by Dallas, and they say a lot about who we are. So each week, in this space, we'll take a closer week at one of these songs — and we'll try to determine what, exactly, they say about this great city of ours. Check out this feature's archives here.
While roughly half of the cuts from ZZ Top's 1975 Fandango! album make reference to Texas, only one mentions Dallas specifically.
That song, “Tush,” was the album's one and only single, and it reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that year. But what can it tell us about the city of Dallas?
Well, despite the Dallas mention coming only somewhat in passing, a lot.
Even though Houstonians like to claim ZZ Top as their own, two-thirds of the group actually grew up in North Texas. Drummer Frank Beard (ironically the only member of the band without a beard) was raised in nearby Irving, while bassist Dusty Hill spent his formative years in East Dallas. This is a fact that subtly resonates throughout the song. The title of the song, for instance, is a discreet nod to Dallas itself. In a 1985 interview with Spin, Hill explained that “tush” — an Americanized version of the Yiddish word “tuchas” — had a double meaning back in his hometown. Per Hill's interview: “Tush, where I grew up, had two meanings. Tush is also like plush, very lavish, very luxurious. So it depended on how you used it. If somebody said, “That's a tush car,' you knew they weren't talking about the rear and of the car. That's like saying, 'That's a cherry short.'”
The rest of the songs lyrical content describes Hill's quest to find some tush (either type) and all of the places this pursuit takes him. It is the song's second stanza in which Hill mentions seeking tail in our backyard: “I been bad, I been good, Dallas, Texas, Hollywood.” In another interview, Hill emphasized that, because of his local upbringing, he felt it absolutely necessary to include Dallas in his lyrics.
Growing up in the Lakewood area, Hill attended Woodrow Wilson High School. Opened in 1928 (three years after its namesake passed away), Woodrow, as it's known colloquially, actually contains a piece of cake from Wilson's daughter Jessie's wedding built into its cornerstone. Furthermore, interior shots of the school were used in the 1981 Joanne Woodward film Crisis at Central High. The school is also the only public high school in the country to have graduated two Heisman Trophy winners: Davey O'Brien and Tim Brown.
For what it's worth, though, Hill, O'Brien and Brown are but a few of Woodrow's notable former students. Figures like real estate mogul Trammell Crow, former mayor and CEO of Tom Thumb grocery stores Jack Wilson Evans, Blazing Saddles actor Burton Gilliam, Jerry “Mr. Peppermint” Haynes, inventor of the frozen margarita Mariano Martinez, classic rocker Steve Miller, restaurateur Pete Papas and former US Postmaster General and CEO of Nissan USA Marvin Runyon are but a few of the school's noteworthy attendees.
Of course, the song's most repeated bit of lyrical content: “I said, Lord, take me downtown, I'm just lookin' for some tush” took on a whole new meaning a few decades after its release.
How so? Well, anybody “lookin' for some tush” in downtown Dallas on March 13, 2010 would have found more than they bargained for. That day, Erykah Badu shot a guerilla-style video for her single “Window Seat,” and that video found the Queen of Neo-Soul stripping off her clothing as she walked down Elm Street in the Dealey Plaza historic district. The divided response to the singer's criticism of the psychological phenomenon known as groupthink made national news and was one of the most searched items on Google the following week.
No matter who you are or where you come from, though, certain factors can make that quest for the ever-elusive tush a little more effortless. For instance, when someone like Jimi Hendrix calls you one of his favorite new guitarists — as he did of Billy Gibbons after his band the Moving Sidewalks opened for Hendrix at Fair Park Music Hall in February of 1968 — you might suddenly notice that tush just sort of starts finding you.