ZZ Top, which will play Thursday night at the OC Fair, consists of two beards and one Beard.
The blues-rock trio, whose career dates back more than four decades, is famous for its hirsute appearance. But ironically, the one member who doesn't sport a furry chin is drummer Frank Beard.
The first word of that name, ZZ Top, sounds like the noise an electric razor makes. And that's a sound Beard must hear a lot more than guitarist Billy Gibbons or bassist Dusty Hill, since he uses a razor more often.
In fact — oh, just go ahead and write your own lede to this story. Whatever pun you can make, whatever insight you can provide about the ZZ Top drummer's appearance, he's heard it already. He may be enduring it right now, actually.
"If we have six shows in a week, he hears it six times; if we have five shows, he hears it five times," Gibbons, serving as the group's spokesman, said by email Tuesday. "When we're off the road, I sometimes call him up and mention it so he doesn't forget between tours."
With the possible exception of Dolly Parton, no modern musical act may be as famous for a physical attribute as ZZ Top. Last year, the media reported that Gibbons and Hill turned down a $1-million offer to shave for a Gillette commercial. Even Bill Watterson's comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," which almost never contained pop-culture references, once had Calvin voicing a desire to grow a long beard "like the guys in ZZ Top."
Sure enough, the website for this year's Pacific Amphitheatre concert series features a silhouetted portrait of the band from the cover of its new "La Futura" album, with the two whiskered members serving as bookends. But those who don't know ZZ Top beyond the hair jokes and radio hits may be surprised at the depth of their accomplishments.
For one thing, they're Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, having been inducted in 2004. They're blues preservationists, having raised money for the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss. — to the point where, in the words of museum staffer Maie Smith, "a lot of people thought we were the ZZ Top fan club."
And they're the rare band that's kept the same lineup for more than 40 years — certainly more than the Beach Boys, the Who or the Rolling Stones can say. So what's the band's secret to longevity? As far as Gibbons is concerned, it's no secret.
"We're still having fun doing this, so we just keep doing it," he said. "You know, there are so many bands that split up and then they, inevitably, get back together. We just never went through the breakup phase, so, if you like, you can think of this as a reunion tour."
That reunion tour of sorts should include all the usual hits: "Tush," "La Grange," "Legs," "Sharp Dressed Man" and others. And the band will likely delve into "La Futura," which came out last September. Of that effort, Rolling Stone proclaimed that "these guys are still bad, speeding along and with warmth, humor, mystery and funk."
Of course, they're not quite as bad as they used to be. Once, ZZ Top were known to bring livestock onstage; now, Gibbons said, the most they'll do is have their canine mascot, GiZZmo, take a bow. But wild or not, they're favorites at the OC Fair — Thursday's show will mark their third appearance, according to spokeswoman Robin Wachner.
So, all right, back to the beards. How did they come about? As Gibbons tells it, the band took a brief hiatus in the 1970s, and when it reconvened, he and Hill had adopted the same look.
"It's actually the way it went down," Gibbons said. "Chin whiskers made spontaneous appearances on two out of three faces and the rest is history. Or hisZZtory."
If You Go
What: ZZ Top
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 8:15 p.m. Thursday
Cost: Sold out, but call to check for availability; seats range from $38.25 to $68.25
Information: (714) 708-1500 or pacamp.com/pa