by Johnny Black. This is a considerably expanded version of a feature which first appeared in Classic Rock magazine.
Billboard magazine called it "one of the most ambitious and extensive concert treks ever undertaken by a rock group". Here's why...
Billy Gibbons (guitarist, ZZ Top) : That was the start of who could create a production to outdo the previous. The grandiose tours, it seemed like every week some band would have a wider stage, more lighting, more theatrics, more props. It was setting the stage, handily, for ZZ Top to bring a taste of Texas out with us. At this particular time, it was all about the big production, and this was by no means a small event. This was really wild. It was kind of an ambitious plan, but we decided, ‘Yeah, let’s give it a go.’ And it worked out nicely. It was taking a lot on, but we certainly had a good time doing it. When you take in the expense, it was such a costly endeavour, and the logistics behind it were extreme. We learned very quickly: we may call ourselves a trio, but we had 156 people travelling with us. When did rock and roll turn this way? Well, back in those days everybody was getting wild with it. But those days are long past – those crazy million-dollar productions, ten trucks’ worth of equipment.”
Dusty Hill (ZZ Top) : We thought: 'Let's have a stage the shape of Texas.' There was a screen in the back that looked like the desert. Then, let's get some animals. We had a longhorn buffalo that came up on hydraulic lifts before and at the closing of the show - you don't want it up there during the show. Bad idea. Javelina [skunk pigs], which are mean little guys. And a coupla rattlesnakes in a Plexiglass dome. You could put your foot on top of that glass.
Micael Priest : They were Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes, not Texan, more the kind you'd find in the Everglades. They were used because they were larger, much more colourful and easier to see.
Ralph Fisher (animal wrangler) : A week before they hired me, I had never heard of ZZ Top. I was a country and western fan, I was a rodeo bullfighter and comedy entertainer, at an indoor rodeo near Houston.
One day - about a year before the tour started - someone knocked on my dressing room door and introduced himself as Jim Lander, and he was Bill Ham's right hand man for years. He used to travel with the band, he committed suicide in 2000.
Jim Lander was a great guy, kept everything rolling, and he was honest, he carried a lot of money with him on behalf of the band, but he was completely honest. He was just what Bill Ham needed. They were raised together, so they knew each other. Jim was quite wealthy himself, and didn't really need to be doing that, but he knew Bill needed his help.
He told me that Bill Ham, the manager of ZZ Top would like to interview me and I said, "ZZ what?' I had no idea.
Jay Boy Adams : I had known the guys in ZZ Top since the spring of 1970, and i had worked with them often as a musician and as a backline tech. Bill Ham was the architect and the heart of the Worldwide Texas tour.
Bill ruled with a very protective hand, over all of the artists that worked with him. It didn't matter if you were the low man on the totem pole, like me, or the big earner like ZZ Top, he treated everyone equally and protected everyone. It was always about building a career, and making sure that artists didn't carry themselves with a huge ego. ZZ is no longer with Bill Ham but Billy Gibbons is still nothing but an absolute top-drawer gentleman, and that's what Bill Ham encouraged in his artists.
Ralph Fisher : Monday morning, two days later, I met with Bill Ham. Jim Lander advised me, 'Be straightforward, don't beat around the bush, just answer the questions. Don't beat around the bush with maybe. When Bill asks you something, tell him yes or no.' So I was prepared in that manner.
Bill was such a nice man, always a gentleman, and the first thing he asked me was, 'Can you train a buffalo?' I said 'Yes' and he said, 'You're hired.' So Jim's advice held good.
Bill had this grandiose plan to have a real live buffalo on stage, and a live Texas Longhorn, so I found both of those, procured 'em. In the publicity for the tour, they stated that the Longhorn was an endangered species, but that was not true. They had been endangered, almost extinct, two or three years after our Civil War, but the government did a lot of work to save the breed and by the time of that tour there were many thousands of them.
Billy Gibbons : Ralph Fisher was kind of heading up the animal division. Another good buddy of mine, Craig Cameron, he was also instrumental in wrangling the livestock. In fact, he made quite a career out of training horses – taming the rough ones, getting those critters back in line. He’s quite a talent.
Ralph Fisher : I had to find a young buffalo that could be trained, and we found him in a field in Nebraska with 200 more buffalo. The caught him for me and I brought him home in a U-haul truck. He had been halter-broken as a baby, hand-raised but he was over two when I got him.
The buffalo belonged to me, and the Longhorn belonged to an old rancher friend. He rented that steer to the band for three or four years and eventually, when the tour was over, he sold him to Bill Ham. Bill also bought the buffalo from me, and he told me he wanted to retire them with no fanfare, where there wouldn't be people trying to get pictures of them all the time.
After I got the buffalo, I started training him to be tame. We played loud rock music to him, we had it on a timer so it would come off and on during the night, along with a light show, just to get him used to unexpected noise. I popped firecrackers near him, and burst balloons, waved flags in front of him, anything to simulate what might happen in a concert.
I had a scissor lift rented for about a year at my farm, so I could train them to walk up a ramp, get on the platform, with a fence around it, and then we drove it up and down the country roads to get them used to traffic and movement. I really spent a lot of time training those animals and it really paid off during the tour.
Paula Helene (wife of Bill Narum) : I was married to Bill Narum at that time, but I consider it more of an apprenticeship than a marriage. We worked on many interesting projects together, and I was a good hard-workin' girl, so I was taken on for that tour as props mistress, but the crew was all men, and a lot of them resented me being there until about two weeks into the tour. As well as the crew we used to take on about 35 hired hands in each town we passed through. The stage manager would give them a talk when they arrived and on this night he pointed to me and he said. "You see that woman over there? She ain't no pussy. She tells you to do somethin', you do it.' I knew then that I'd made it. That was the turnaround.
One of my jobs was teaching the hired hands how to handle and move cacti. These were big, up to six foot tall plants with sharp spines. Bill had made outlines on the stage to show where everything went.
Bill designed the whole thing, the stage and the backdrop, and oversaw the making of the props and the painting.
The design work was done quite a long way in advance, but I think we did all the manufacturing in about two weeks. They rented the Astrodome in Houston for the rehearsals, and for the building of the stage and set. Micael did the painting of the three trucks in about five days, which was possible because Bill did all the drawing out onto the sides of the trucks, and then he numbered all the areas like a paint by numbers set, so it could be coloured in very fast. Even I did a few sections of that.
The backdrop was layers of scrim material. Kenny Glen worked on that with Bill. I had nothing to do with that because that needed real art skills.
Ralph Fisher : I remember they had seven tractor-trailers all painted alike, and we got them all painted and loaded, right before the tour started, and they didn't have any place to park the trucks, so I said they could bring them out to my farm and park in the pasture. I have a picture of those trucks in my pasture, all in a circle. We live on a country road with these creaky old wooden bridges, and they brought all those heavily-laden 18 wheelers across those bridges. Bill Ham didn't find out about that until later, and it caused him a lot of consternation when he realised what might have happened if one of those old bridges had collapsed.
I had travelled with rodeos, so I was familiar with traveling, and I knew the techniques of hauling animals. I was used to being away from home, out of state, for months at a time.
There was just the two of us looking after the animals. The first guy got homesick, missed his girlfriend, so he went home, and then Tommy and I did it, took turns driving. At first we did four-hour driving shifts but we figured out we weren't getting enough rest, so we changed to eight hour shifts and that worked a lot better. You could get a better sleep that way. Some of our trips were almost half the way across the country. In all, we went coast to coast five times over three years.
For some of that time, about a year, we had a little Havelina pig, a collared peccary, who used to travel in the truck cabin with us, like a pet.
What we didn't know was that this tour would go on for three years.
Pete Tickle (Production Manager) : We started out six weeks ahead of time to train the animals for the hydraulic lifts, which rise about 26 feet. We took them up and down, and day and night we had real loud music around. Sometimes we'd leave them up there two or three hours to graze. They're used to it.
As far as the rattlesnake goes - it's kinda hard to train him.
The vultures are owned by one of the trainers, so they're tame.
The buffalo and the longhorn are only highlighted 15 to 20 seconds. It may have cost $140,000 but it's like a special effect in a movie. People remember it.
Micael Priest, artist, assistant to Bill Narum : I knew Dusty from the days in the middle sixties when he was in a band in Dallas called the American blues. They actually dyed their hair blue.
Bill Narum had been my room-mate for a couple of years in Austin, and I had developed about a 10,000 square foot studio in an old industrial loft, so whenever he was in town he would rent a spot in my studio and split the rent with me. I always had a little three-bedroomed house in Austin, so that I could have a library. He and Paula would stay with me there.
He called me from Houston and said, "We're five days out (until start of tour) and we're so far behind. Can you put what you're doing on hold, and come down and help me for five days?' So I said, 'Well, of course I can. There's nothing I've got to do that's more important than the ZZ Top Worldwide Texas tour, that's for sure.'
I was so jazzed to be asked, because everybody in Texas loves that band. Up to that time, very few radio stations, except maybe in Houston and Austin, ever played anything besides La Grange. They had no money to speak off. They made all their income the hard way by playing live. They had slowly built up their audiences until they were playing in stadiums, with no help from record companies. As a result, they were able to keep the designer they preferred, which was Bill Narum, for the first few albums, up to Deguello (1979).
This was the advent of ZZ Top's gigantic stage shows with huge crews, and instead of jeans and a black t-shirt, they all wore lab jackets, which made them look very professional, understated but cool. I'd seen that before on a Jethro Tull show, and maybe that was where Billy picked up on it.
We only had about a week to put the whole thing together.
We had five days in the Houston Astrodome Arena during the rehearsal period to do it.
Bill Narum designed the whole stage set. It was a nine scrim box, there were nine separate translucent pieces of material in frames, each one 20 feet high and 30 feet long, and there were lights in between, behind and in front of the scrims.
Bill had painted it to be a landscape of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, on the Rio Grande in southwestern Brewster County, and then he and the lighting director figured out how to make it look like the sun was coming up and going down and then the full moon coming up over the canyon. It was very effective.
I think the idea of the sloping stage came from Teddy Pendergrass, who was touring around then with a sloping stage so he could down close to his lady fans, and hand them roses from the stage. Bill Narum saw that and I think the idea just stuck in the back of his mind.
Bill designed it to break down into parts that would fit into four trucks. He oversaw all the loadings and unloadings. He and his wife travelled with the tour, but I only got to go to a couple of shows, because I was a sub-contractor, I wasn't on the payroll. I remember Paula was worried about how she would replace plants once they got to places where there was no desert, but being desert plants they didn't really require much attention and they were pretty hardy.
Bill Narum had done such a thorough job of planning it all out in engineering drawings on grid paper and we had so little time to think about it. His wife had bought dozens of potted desert plants to decorate the stage, and my room-mate, Jerry, from Austin was in charge of making giant fibre-glass boulders for the foreground of the desert scene.
One of the first jobs I had to do was to paint a full moon on two hinged 4x8 pieces of plywood. The idea was that, because the Lone Wolf Management logo was a wolf howling, silhouetted in front of a full moon, they would train a wolf to sit in the front of the moon when it came up, throw its head back and howl.
Of course, you can't train a wolf, so they got a little German Shepherd dog instead, and the wrangler tried to teach it to come out onto the stage, sit down, throw his head up and howl. So, for the same five days and five nights while we were in a room doing the painting, the wrangler was poking this dog under the chin with a bent-out coat hanger, and howling at him. That little dog was so happy and so eager to please, but he could not for the life of him figure out what this man wanted him to do. He just thought this man was insane.
So my full moon was going to sit in the middle of the darkened stage, and the little dog would come out, sit down, throw his head back and howl, and Billy Gibbons would pick up that note sustained on his guitar. The band was arrayed behind them, and at the very back of the stage before you got to the scrim box, was a little split-rail fence that went all the way across, and there were four live turkey vultures on the fence, one of which had already travelled with them before.
There was a particular note that, when Billy hit it, the bird would hunch up, raise his shoulders up around his ears, unfold his wings and flap them. And sure as hell, the other three buzzards picked that up from him. It was astounding to see.
When Billy hit the same note as the dog, the lights would all come up for a couple of seconds, and then it would dim right back down, the sun would rise above Santa Elena Canyon, and Billy would change to the note that would set the buzzards flapping, and then the band would go into their first song.
Of course, the dog never did learn how to howl on cue, so once he was sitting in front of the full moon, they played a recording of a wolf howling, and Billy would pick up on that note. The dog would trot out, sit down and throw his head back, but the howling was on a tape.
The two sound wings on either side had aprons that Narum had painted ahead of time with kind of Mayan-looking rattlesnakes, and there was a Texas flag and a US flag in front of the big bass speakers, on the very ends of the sound towers.
At the thrilling climax of the show, the Longhorn and the buffalo would be raised up from behind the speakers on the scissor jacks, and the crowd would go completely nuts.
They had these four forty foot long furniture vans. They arrived at the arena at the same time as we did, but they were filthy, so we couldn't paint on them until they brought in some mobile car wash guys with high-powered water jet sprayers. So the first of our five days was pretty much lost just washing the trucks.
The guy who was in charge of painting the trucks was a very experienced scenic painter from Memphis, Tennessee, who had done all the backdrops for the Masonic Temples. His name was Lou something, the most frustrating racist I ever did meet. Houston is an international community, and we would break for supper each night and go out to have a different kind of international cuisine, and this man invariably managed to talk too loudly and insult the people who were serving us. What we didn't know was that while we were drinking iced Dr Pepper all day, he was drinking bourbon whiskey. He later told us that was kept his hands steady. It took the shakes out.
Despite all of this, I learned an astounding amount from working with him. He realised that if the washer guys waxed the trucks, their wax would make an excellent base for our paint. We were using one-shot sign enamel which dries in an hour, even if you're painting in the rain.
Another thing is that I'm colour blind and, with that in mind, Bill Narum had designed the panoramic side of the trucks like a paint-by-numbers painting. So we started at the top and worked down, with Lou making up and numbering the paint colours according to Narum's numbering system, so I just painted them onto the same numbered shapes on the panorama. That meant we could move through the work very rapidly.
Once every day, usually just before sun up, we would run to the hotel, go into our room, tag the back wall and go back to painting again. Lou said that way we could charge them by the day instead of the hour and they wouldn't be able to weasel out on us. It was a good idea, because Ham was very slippery.
As we got the trucks finished,, and we had to bring in yet another sign painter from Austin, to do the other side of the trucks wit huge ZZ Top logos. I painted the first one and he copied the others from that.
I remember Billy Gibbons took an interest in what we were doing and he drove in a couple of times, once to show me a brand new Thunderbird convertible that he had just bought.
1976, May 29 : Worldwide Texas Tour begins at Groves Stadium, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, supported by Point Blank, Elvin Bishop and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Elvin Bishop : I was really out on tour supporting my big hit single, Fooled Around And Fell In Love, and although I played quite a few dates with them, I never felt I really got to know them.
I remember that at the soundchecks their bass player would sing George Jones songs, which I kinda liked.
Dusty Hill : That was a long one, about 18 months. It took a full day to set things up and a full day to take them down, so we only actually played one day in three.
It was a wild tour. It was so big that people just couldn't grasp the size of it.
Dusty Hill : There were six or eight semi-tractor trailers to carry the gear and they were painted in a desert scene, and they were done in order. They had to travel down the highway in a certain order so the scene went from one to another.
Ralph Fisher : I furnished a trailer for the animals to travel in and rented it to Bill Ham. The trailer was air-conditioned, because we had tarantulas - for the press really. We had two or three rattlesnakes in a Plexiglass cage which sat about two or three feet in front of the band onstage. The snakes were always crawling up the side of the cage, so they were usually visible to the audience.
Paula Helene : We had a wonderful animal trainer, Ralph Fisher, on that tour but those poor rattlesnakes had a terrible time of it. They were in a trunk from gig to gig, then into the Plexiglass pyramid. They lost a snake about every two weeks. If the Humane Society had known about that ...
Jay Boy Adams : If the truth be known, it wasn't ideal circumstances for any of those friggin' animals. They were always lookin' for ways to escape. The Longhorn didn't like it, the buffalo certainly didn't like it, but we took Texas to the world and the audience loved it.
Ralph Fisher : ZZ Top was so famous by then that everywhere we would go we had to hide anything that could be taken off the trailers. They'd steal the licence plates, stickers, anything they could remove. We had to take all the signage off the trailers and travel to the concerts in unmarked vehicles.
Dusty Hill : The stage was in the shape of Texas and down on the tip is where Billy and I were, and Frank was up the back.
It was slightly slanted so the people on the floor could see. And the snakes were in a plexiglass pyramid right down at the tip to discourage people from climbing up.
(Source : Kerrang, interview with David Sinclair, 15 Dec 1983)
Billy Gibbons : It required some careful realigning of one’s tip-toeing techniques. Going down forward or backing up was okay, but the sideways movements, when the stage was tilted, you don’t want to twist your ankle.
Jay Boy Adams : Bill Narum had designed it to be in the shape of Texas, but so that people could clearly see the shape, he had it set at a six degree angle, just enough so everybody could see it, but not so much that it bothered you if you were playing on it.
The rattlers sat out right on the lower tip of Texas, in their Plexiglass cage, about where Brownsville would be.
Paula Helene : The warm-up act would finish, and then the Texas-shaped stage had to be laid down and decorated with fibre-glass boulders, wagon wheels, cactus plants, cow skulls, every kind of Texan paraphernalia.
Then, while the stage was still in complete darkness, my final thing was to push this little Plexiglass pyramid full of rattlesnakes from behind the curtain to the bottom tip of Texas, and pull the cover off of it then try to get off the stage without bumping into any of the band as they were coming on.
Ralph Fisher : The Longhorn and the buffalo were only visible for a few seconds during the show. When the lights went out before the band went on stage, me and my helper would walk the animals up the ramp in the dark, onto the scissor lift platform which was level with the stage. There was a 12 foot shroud around the scissor lift, so we raised the ramp up through the shroud til it was maybe 25 feet in the air, way up above stage level.
This was all in pitch dark, so the apprehension in the crowd was building up as they wondered what was going to happen, and then the spotlights would hit the animals up in the air. I think some people didn't believe they were real animals. We had their horns all shined up specially, and they looked beautiful. For about thirty seconds the lights stayed on them, before switching the band in the middle of the stage doing their first tune, behind the rattlesnake.
So then we'd come down again in the darkness, and I'd walk them back through the building to their storage pens, sometimes back to the trailer depending on circumstances, and then I had to return to the stage area to look after the other animals.
We had live vultures, black buzzards, one on each side of the stage, behind the big speakers. I still have one of the vultures, Oscar who is now 45 years old old. We first thought she was male, so we couldn't change her name. She still does movies and tv commercials and exhibitions.
David Blayney mentioned something about the buzzards' wings starting to smoke under the heat of the stage lights in his book Sharp Dressed Men, but I don't remember it ever happening. First of all, there were no lights that low on the stage. We had set the vultures on a cow skull on a tether, a dark little nylon rope, they were behind the speakers, and the Humane Society even helped us locate them in the best spot for their safety. I think that might have been in his imagination.
I'd owned those buzzards for several years and I'd have never allowed something like that to happen. They were my friends. They were bullfighting buzzards at the rodeos where I did my clowning. If we had concerts during October, my brother used to take my place on the tour, because I had to perform every sunday at the Texas Prison Rodeo in Houston.
Anything to do with animal treatment, I stayed on top of it.
Billy Gibbons : One of the interesting aspects is the animal rights groups were always present – to make sure that these critters were being taken proper care of. In fact, at some point I think that the animals were travelling in grander style than the band.
Elvin Bishop : It was very strange having a buzzard at the side of the stage, I do remember that very clearly, and it would always get very agitated when the band hit the high notes. I'm not sure they'd be allowed to do a tour like that again. I think it would be considered cruelty to animals nowadays.
Ralph Fisher : We were different from the usual roadie crew. I had no rock'n'roll experience, didn't know about drugs, didn't know or care what they were doing. I was divorced and I had my young son to look after so he came out on the road with us in the summer.
Ralph Fisher : The guys in band worked so hard. They sweated blood. They started out in their fancy costumes - this was before they had the long beards - then for the encore they would come back out in blue jeans and a white Western shirt and cowboy hats. They did that all three years I was with them.
Ralph Fisher : Most rock bands just stand there and do the show, but Billy, Frank and Dusty really knew how to put on a show.
1976 : Jun 2 , Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia, supported by Wet Willie and Jay Boy Adams.
Ralph Fisher : We'd always make a spectacle, before and after the show, of putting the snakes in and out of the cage. We'd make sure that one of them would escape, get away from the handler for a second or so, then we'd make a big show of re-capturing the snake, but it was all for the press, because they'd write it up in their papers, and it made good publicity. The headline would be 'Rattlesnake escapes backstage at ZZ Top concert'.
Bill Ham really understood how to get the most out of every show, so he knew that the reviews from one show would help sell tickets for the later dates.
Most of the musicians on the tour got accustomed to the animals They usually wanted to come and see them. The press was the most reluctant to come and see them. The rattlesnakes were the most dangerous...
The spiders would crawl up onto your arm, and if you don't harass them, and if you feed them well, they won't trouble you.
Jim Lander used to love sitting at dinner and he'd unexpectedly produce a tarantula from his pocket and scare the living daylights out of people.
Jay Boy Adams : Something that might look scary to someone else doesn't trouble anyone who knows animals. It's not a matter of being scared, but you do have to be cautious. You must never let an animal know you're scared.
Ralph Fisher : I never travelled with the road crew. When the concert was over, I was usually the last one to load out. We always had to take my props down and I was in charge of putting them into an 18-wheeler. I usually would not leave the building until about five or six am.
Jay Boy Adams : The first show I did on that tour was Norfolk Scope, after which I did between a third and a half of all the other shows.
At the beginning there were some glitches that to be handled. Getting the setlist right, getting everything tweaked, but as it progressed it became a fine-oiled machine.
Paula Helene : Bill Ham ruled with an iron fist. The band, the crew, everybody. He had rules for everything. You didn't ever do drugs, he didn't even allow the band to have beer. They were on a strict diet too. Every mouthful of food that passed their lips was watched. He was worried about them gaining weight.
After the show, they would collect a whole bunch of women from the audience, invite them to come and meet the band, they would go backstage, shoot a bunch of photos with all these women, and then the band was taken away, confined to their hotel rooms, and the girls were standing there amazed. Then the crew would move in and see what they could score. Ham didn't want them staying up too late, partying too hard, whatever. Truth to tell, I don't think the band minded too much. They were sweet guys.
1976, Jun 3, Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia.
Billy Gibbons : It was a real menagerie. I remember playing in Richmond, Virginia, we were in a big room down there. We had a little backline of corral-line fencing, and the two buzzards were quite content to just take their position on the perch and sit there throughout the evening, until one night this fateful evening in Richmond, this one rather sizeable turkey buzzard decided to take flight. He was making circles around the dome of the arena. And Ralph Fisher, the handler, came out. He had trained this buzzard to look for a white hat and land on his head. That was one of his big tricks when he was doing rodeo. But of course, in our audience at the time there were a lot of white hats. And this buzzard was swooping and circling and swirling. He didn’t know which white hat to land on. Finally, we had to stop playing, and Ralph came out in the spotlight and whistled to the bird. To see this bird land on his head – it made the follow-up for the rest of the evening rather challenging. How do you outdo a bird that knows how to land on a guy’s hat?
Dusty Hill : I had an understanding with the buzzard behind me. There was six buzzards behind me, who were all named Oscar - 1,2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 - and mine didn't like me. Buzzards are really shitty birds I walked back near him one day and he tried to throw up on me.
1976, Jun 5, Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, supported by Point Blank, Elvin Bishop, Jay Boy Adams and The Marshall Tucker Band.
Micael Priest : When they played in Atlanta they parked the vans in the hotel car park with the landscape side facing out over the highway that passed by. The cops came and told them it was causing chaos with the traffic as people on the freeway slowed down to look at the vans, so they'd have to turn the trucks around.
Bill Ham explained to the officers that if they turned the trucks round, there'd be three forty-foot long ZZ Top logos facing out onto the freeway, and that would cause the worst security problem the hotel had ever faced. Well, they made him do it and, sure as hell, thousands of kids besieged the hotel, and they got everywhere.
Ham sent the new Head Of Security to ride up the elevator and check each floor, and he worked out which floors had the least people on them. So Ham gave him his cheque book and told him to block book the two least busy floors, right up on top of the hotel, and they moved the entire entourage up there, where it was easier to secure the access. They had to have security men at the doors of every elevator, bottom and top, so that made it very obvious that they were going to have major problems even before the shows.
Just after the Atlanta show they were having a problem because the buzzards were refusing to eat. So I asked Paula where they were keeping the buzzards when they were traveling and she said they were in the very back of the trailer with the buffalo and the Longhorn Steer. So I said, 'Well, what are you feedin' 'em?' And she said, "Canned cat food.' Well, of course, vultures only eat carrion, so I told her to open the cat food cans and leave them out for a day or two to get real good and stinky, and then the buzzards would eat it.
Paula was so pleased about that.
Jay Boy Adams : Worldwide Texas was an awesome tour. The full-fledged stadium dates were outrageous, and even when it was geared down to 15 and 25,000 capacity arenas, it was still pretty fantastic.
1976, Jun 6 : Civic Coliseum Knoxville, Tennessee, supported by Jay Boy Adams.
Micael Priest : Shortly after the Atlanta show, they discovered that someone was very successfully bootlegging all of their tour merchandise out of the back of his car and they caught up with him in Winston-Salem. Bill Ham, the manager, was a consummate bastard, paid great attention to detail.
He got this guy by the scruff of the neck and they took him into a side room, and there was quite a ruckus, but then it got real quiet and Bill appeared at the door but now he had his arm around the guy's shoulder and he says, "ladies and gentlemen, I want you to meet our new Head of Merchandising." The guy had been traveling with a silkscreen printing machine in the back of his car, and he was making up t-shirts on the day of each show.
Bill Ham was a really smart guy, but he turned to the dark side really early on and he was not at all good about, for example, paying his artists.
Paula Helene : Originally they had a lot more shows booked in, but it turned out that the show took so long to set up and tear down that they had to thin out the number of bookings. They realised that if the distance was too great, there was no way to get to the next city in time.
Jay Boy Adams : That's true. We didn't have two production crews, so if they did a big show one night and then had another show the next day, it would be a stripped-down version of it. There was always as much production put into the building as the building would allow.
1976, Jun 7 : Freedom hall, Louisville, Kentucky, supported by Jay Boy Adams.
Micael Priest : One problem they discovered quite quickly with the snakes was that they couldn't put them in the cattle trailer to travel because it upset the Longhorn and the buffalo terribly. Luckily, they had a brand new head of security who had just retired from the Secret Service, a very inventive guy from Central Texas. Bill Ham told him to figure out how to get the snakes from point A to point B.
He knew that if the snakes got overheated they'd start to move around and get agitated, so he figured that if he kept them cool they would not move around so much.
So he went out and bought a long plumber's steel toolbox, drilled holes in both ends, and stuck biohazard stickers all over it.
He then put the snakes inside,
He would fly from show to show, and he'd walk onto the plane carrying this case, and he was very strong, large, and silent, so people were not inclined to mess with him, but the air conditioning on planes in those days didn't always work, so the snakes would occasionally overheat, get irritated and begin to rattle, and he had to find a way to cover it up, so he would make really loud, wet, farting noises with his mouth to keep everybody at bay.
1976, Jun 12 : Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, supported by Aerosmith and Point Blank.
Rich Engler, concert promoter : Three Rivers Stadium was a football and baseball stadium at the time, for the Pittsburg Steelers.
It was my second big show there. My first was the year before with Eric Clapton, just after he'd come out of seclusion and came back with 461 Ocean Boulevard, and I out several acts together and it made a great show.
So then I got a call from ZZ Top's agent in New York City, Wally Marowitz [?]. I had played ZZ Top several times in smaller venues, but now they were gaining audiences after La Grange, and the agent told me it was going to be a major production.
I asked them, 'Well, what are you talkin' about?'
They said, 'Well, we don't even know.'
There was talk about them bringing a special stage, and all kinda props, but we never expected that some of those props would be live animals.
Nobody knew what they were planning but Bill Ham had always been a kind of a genius manager, a mysterious kinda guy, who never got in the limelight but he was always creating a bigger and bigger image for the band.
When i got the contract rider it stated that we'd need a lot of extra stage hands, extra help to erect the stage, which, it turned out, was in the shape of Texas. So that was the first thing. I had to supply all the extra help. It was a monstrosity of a stage. Most everybody would go with whatever stage was provided, maybe a 70 foot by 60 foot stage.
Then the word got out that there would be animals onstage. I started getting calls from the Humane Society, who were concerned about the treatment of the animals. They'd been told the band was gonna torture animals onstage.
I'm going, 'Wait up, why would they torture animals?'
I got the same thing when Peter Gabriel released Shock The Monkey. They thought he was going to be torturing monkeys onstage.
So we put the Humane Society onto the ZZ Top office in Texas and let them deal with it.
When the show went on sale we sold over 50,000 tickets. It was one of the biggest of its time, for sure, a sellout at that venue.
The biggest factor of that show was the chemistry.
When it was being put together, Aerosmith was a fairly new name although they had had a big hit with Dream On. I remember their management negotiating to get Special Guests - Aerosmith on the posters with reasonable-sized printing, but the reality was that ZZ Top was the big draw. They also demanded their own dressing rooms, which just was not possible because ZZ Top had taken over the Steelers' dressing rooms and there was nothing else.
So I told them we'd build a special area for them out back and each one of them would get their own Winnebago as a dressing room, and a jacuzzi and a barbecue and girls. They liked that idea, but how was I going to get five Winnebagos? I out an ad in the paper offering $500 a day rental for anybody who would let us hire their Winnebago. We got bombarded. Everybody in Pittsburg wanted to rent us their Winnebagos.
So you had ZZ Top, beer drinkers and hellraisers, put together with a hair band, so the chemistry did not blend at all for that audience. In those days you could have had Richie Havens and The Who on the same bill but for some reason ZZ Top and Aerosmith was not a good mix. There was a lot of beer bottles and cans thrown at them, fireworks ... some people in the stands were burned by fireworks ... but to make things worse, halfway through their set, the power went out. All you could hear was the drummer.
It turned out that a ZZ Top fan had crawled in under the stage and pulled the power cables out. So the ZZ Top crowd was cheering and the Aerosmith crowd was booing.
In pretty short order I found the chief electrician and we located the source of the power cut and plugged everything back in again, so the show was able to go on.
So then ZZ Top was going onstage, they brought out the Longhorn steer, people were going crazy, - still to this day there's been nothing to compare to it. Everything was going great and then my assistant comes running up to me, 'Hey, you gotta come see this, you gotta come backstage right away.'
I said, 'Man, I'm busy!'
He says, 'No, you gotta come right now!' He looked like the devil was chasing him.
So we go backstage and as I arrive at the Aerosmith encampment, I see a chair come flying through the windscreen of one of the Winnebagos! They wrecked two or three of them and squirted condiments - mustard and ketchup and relish all over the insides.
Then the manager, David Krebs, comes up to me and demands his cheque for the remaining portion of the fee, so I said, 'Do you see the damage they've done?'
And he says, 'I see it and you deserve it. You didn't read the rider did you? We ordered blue towels.'
I said, 'You got blue towels'.
He said, 'You gave us light blue. We ordered dark blue.' Then he starts poking me in the chest, saying, 'This band will never, ever play for you again.'
So I said, 'I'll send you your cheque after we've subtracted all the damage they've done.'
Then he jumped into a limo with them and they left.
I think the damage came to around $15,000, so I owed them maybe 50 or 60,000 more dollars, and I recall Aerosmith fired Krebs soon after and I started dealing with the new manager, Tim Collins from Boston, and it was as if it never happened.
Meanwhile, the crowd is out there going crazy for ZZ Top, a fantastic show, but the next day the newspaper headlines said 250 people had been injured by broken glass, and so many overdoses and broken noses and arms and so on. When we checked the figures, only about 98 people had received treatment at the stadium and only about 36 were taken to hospital. The papers blew it all out of proportion, because the authorities thought rock concerts were a menace to society. Somebody went swimming in the river and drowned, which was tragic, but you can hardly blame ZZ Top for that.
Raymond C. Alsing Jr. (audience) : By the time I got there after swimming from Point State Park to the stadium, it looked like the concert was over judging by the trash all over the place, and that was before the first band started. I was in ninth grade at the time and would never had been allowed to go if my parents had any idea what it was going to be like, and I heard about it the next day from them.
Vandalism and destruction at the concert reached levels never before seen in Pittsburgh, and there has never been anything like it since. Drug sales were rampant through the turnstiles entering the stadium along with anything else that wanted to come in. People were carrying kegs of beer in on their shoulders. Bathrooms were unisex, even though nothing like that existed then.
Rich Engler (promoter) : It was the craziest mix ever, that's for sure. It was ZZ Top, Aerosmith. They had cattle, they had rattlesnakes on stage. I liked the package but it was weird because it was the roughneck-beer-drinkers-hell-raisers, and this American hair-type band that was a different form of rock 'n' roll. It kind of collided with the chemistry, not only of the music but the crowd. There were a lot of calamities.
In the middle of Aerosmith's set, one of the ZZ Top fans risked his life to go over the high-tension, do-not-enter, high-voltage, danger, will-kill-you area, crawled in there, drunk as a skunk, and pulled the power level on Aerosmith - and the whole stage went completely silent. The only thing you could hear was rat-tat-tat - the drummer without any amplification. Everyone was stunned. The ZZ Top crowd was cheering and the Aerosmith crowd was booing.
My people came running to me like the devil was chasing them. 'Rich, you gotta come and see this.' I go, 'No, I'm busy, man.' 'You gotta see it, you gotta see it.' They (Aerosmith) had wrecked the Winnebagos. They threw mustard and ketchup bottles through the windows and it was an absolute nightmare.
Dr. Joseph Finegold (physician, the Pittsburgh Pirates) : It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen since World War II. I was so busy I could have had a heart attack. I had three well-trained nurses and they were shocked.
Joe Perry (guitarist, Aerosmith) : It was wild and woolly back then. Not like it is today, where it's standard operating procedure - bands play the sheds. People were trying to copy festivals and think of new ways to put shows on, so you ended up with these big cluster[expletive], and it made for more excitement.
Steven Hansen (DJ, WDVE Radio) : The VIP area was directly in the sight line of people on the floor of the stadium. This fact, directly coupled with the liberal availability of beer, produced a steady stream of comments directed from the crowd to the VIPs. I remember people nervously leaving the seating area as the day got hotter and the comments got louder.
I wasn't there when it happened, but eventually at least one projectile - a beer bottle as I remember - was chucked into the VIP area. It struck a girl who I think won her prized seat on 'DVE. It cut her pretty good and she was taken to the hospital. I don't recall too many people being in the VIP area by the time ZZ Top came on - by that time it was safer to take your chances with the rattlesnakes back stage.
Rich Engler : In the event, the authorities and the police swore that there must have been 70,000 people there, which was definitely not the case because we had strict ticket counters, but a lot of people did manage to sneak in, by scaling walls and fences. The remnants of the Woodstock mentality was still lingering out there.
1976, Jun 17 : Mayor Pete Flaherty of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, declares that in the wake of the recent calamitous ZZ Top concert in the city, future rock shows at the stadium will be limited to seven hours max, the gates will open earlier, there must be more portable toilets, and drunks and drug-users will not be allowed in.
Rich Engler : The mayor imposed a whole bunch of new rules for rock concerts, but then the next show that came in was The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, which was a real laid back show, so everybody forgot about the new rules.
I think the city made about $50,000 on amusement tax from the ZZ Top show, the bars, hotels and parking facilities made a ton of money, so the mayor couldn't complain too much. He just had to appear to be doing something about it for all the straight people. Some local residents complained that fans had been urinating on their lawns, but that goes on just as much at football games.
One thing I've never spoken about before is that it was an expensive show for me to stage, but when I signed the contract and sent it to the ZZ Top office, it didn't come back. Now I wanted a signed contract before the show went on, but time passed and I didn't get it. In the end, about two and a half weeks before the show, I told Bill Ham I was coming to see him, I flew down to Houston with a contract, signed by me, to get it signed by Bill Ham, but he would not come out of his office to see me. I was only able to speak to his assistant, Danny Eaton. I never did get a signed contract, but I went ahead with the show. If I'd got an attorney involved he'd have told me to cancel the show, but you can't do that. I'd never have put any shows on if I listened to what attorneys said.
I've put on many shows now with ZZ Top, and we have a great relationship. I've played golf with Frank, hung out with Billy and Dusty, but I never once met Bill Ham.
1976, Jun 23 : The Convention Center, Niagara Falls, New York State, supported by Starz and Blue Oyster Cult.
Paula Helene : Audiences were different everywhere we went and the worst was probably upstate New York. Quite early in that tour there was a death almost every night in the audience. I remember saying to Bill Ham, 'This is terrible', because it always got into the papers, and he said, 'Any publicity is good publicity.'
1976, Jul 11 : Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Kansas, supported by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Jay Boy Adams.
Jeff Hannah (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) Oddly enough, Billy and the boys were fans of our band. Billy Gibbons has quite eclectic musical tastes, and we were flattered that he liked us. He's a big country music fan.
We had a guy on our crew from Texas and he turned me onto the Tres Hombres album when that first came out, and I was all about those guys, right from the get-go.
Then we ended up on a bill together in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1973 or 74, and Billy and I became friends. We're both guitar freaks, we both collect old guitars, especially the old Gibsons, electrics and acoustics, and we ended up doing a bunch of dates with them, a big one in Tempe, Arizona for example.
People kind of scratch their heads because we have such a reputation because of the Will The Circle Be Unbroken albums, so they assume we're a bluegrass, which we are not, although we're certainly not a heavy metal band. Tastes were pretty eclectic in that period, and there was more genre-bending too.
The Worldwide Texas tour was fantastic. Jay Boy Adams was on at Arrowhead Stadium with us, and he was another of Bill Ham's acts.
Their show was always incredible, and I felt like, as a far as creating amazing productions, ZZ Top were leading the pack. They had a great collective imagination, Billy Gibbons is a very artistic guy and he has a keen eye for what will work.
Something that often gets overlooked about ZZ Top is that they had such a great sense of humour, very wry, dry. They were out there playing really hard-edged blues, but dressed in cowboy suits. They had these fantastic suits made for them by Nudie's Rodeo Tailors of North Hollywood. So there was that tongue-in-cheek visual, combined with amazing, dedicated roots rock'n'roll.
Because we were playing to a rock audience, we probably leaned a little more heavily on the uptempo stuff, but we can shapeshift pretty well if we need to. We'll play to the room. I mean, we'd have changed our set if we'd been playing with The Earl Scruggs Revue.
1976, Jul 17, Tulane Stadium, New Orleans, supported by The J. Giels Band and Jay Boy Adams.
Ralph Fisher : The buffalo and the longhorn steer accidentally got away a couple of times. One time, at the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans - I think its gone now.
I was in my hotel room, middle of the day, because we were traveling hundreds of miles between gigs so we wouldn't get to the next city til early afternoon, and somehow the buffalo escaped so I was called at the hotel.
Tulane Stadium was shaped like a big bowl with only one tunnel for coming in and out of the infield, so I told 'em to block the tunnel so he'd be contained. Someone put there car across it and then, with a feed bucket, I could, what we called 'sook 'em in'. I'd call 'Sook, sook, sook!' and he was tame enough that he'd come up to me so I could catch him.
in New Orleans, we were raising him up on the scissor lift, one of those work platforms that they use on buildings where the crew gets up onto an 8 x 10 platform and it raises up thirty feet in the air. So we had one on each side of the stage at concerts, one for the buffalo, one for the Longhorn steer.
So in New Orleans someone threw a whole string of small Black Cat firecrackers, about 100 on the string, when me and the buffalo was about fifteen feet up in the air, going up into the spotlight. They all popped directly underneath the buffalo, but it frightened me more than it did him. He just looked around to see what was going on, but he'd been so well trained that he barely moved a muscle. I was really proud of him at that moment.
The Texas Longhorn, that's a domesticated animal, but the buffalo is a wild animal with a propensity to go stupid every now and then. If he had jumped down into the crowd, he would probably have killed several people, so we really had to be sure of the animals, and we never had any problems during a performance.
1976, Jul 21, Duluth Arena Auditorium, Duluth, Minnesota.
Paula Helene : We used live cacti on the stage but, after a while, they would start to look bad. So if we were staying in a hotel that had a healthy-looking cactus in it, we would switch them round. In the night we'd dig up their healthy cactus, and replace it with our ailing cactus. That's how we managed to keep good-looking cacti on the stage.
1976, Aug 1 : McNichols Coliseum, Denver, Colorado, supported by The Outlaws and Jay Boy Adams.
Jay Boy Adams : When you look at that entire schedule for that time frame, there were some gaps in there. Some of those dates were not the full production. Obviously you can't put the same amount of production into McNichols Coliseum in Denver as you can into Jefferson Stadium in Houston, but they always put as much production in as the venue could take. If we'd done stadium shows all the way it would have been killing, but that's not the way it was.
Yeah, McNichols Coliseum in Denver. Now, the rattlesnakes were transported around in box that was very clearly marked 'snakes'. But there's also a kind of cable, the one that goes out to the PA system, which is called a snake. Now Bill Ham decided to play a trick on the local promoter, Barry Fay, so we got one of the sound guys to come over and ask Barry if, as a favour, he would go and get the snake, meaning the sound snake, out of the box marked snakes. Barry didn't understand because you'd never ask a promoter to do that, but he said, 'Yeah, OK' and he went over and opened the box and it nearly scared the livin' shit outta him, when he saw these large rattlesnakes inside the box. He was perfectly safe, because they were still inside their plexiglass case, but it was a hilarious moment.
1976, Aug 7 : Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, California, supported by point Blank, Johnny and Edgar Winter and Blue Oyster Cult.
Ralph Fisher : When we played in Anaheim, near Hollywood, we wanted to make a bit of a splash for the local media, so we brought the trailer down to a little park for a press conference and when they opened the doors, I came riding out on the back of the Longhorn waving my hat around.
It was my responsibility to find boarding for them wherever we went. I had a favourite place on the West Coast, a horse-boarding facility in Anaheim, and on the East Coast I met a very nice man who let me stay at his little farm, and he did not tell anybody when we were in town. We had to have that security until it was time to do the event, at which point we tried to get as much exposure as possible.
I could never let anyone know where we were staying or for how long, because the kids were so crazy, they'd do anything to get a souvenir, so we laid low as much as we could.
1976, Aug 15 : Break in tour
Ralph Fisher : Whenever I could get home, if there was a break in the tour, I'd come back to Houston and the animals would come with me.
1976 Sep 22 : Fairgrounds Speedway, Nashville, Tennessee, supported by The Band, The Cate Brothers And Jay Boy Adams.
Jay Boy Adams : A lot of the shows on the Worldwide Texas Tour, by the way, are listed inaccurately on the internet. For example, at The Fairgrounds in Nashville, The Band was on that show, but they're not usually listed.
It was always a fun place to play because it was a racetrack and a fairground, so what you were staring at from the stage was an old-fashioned Atlantic City-style wooden rollercoaster. It was always sold out, tip to stern, always a wild night if you played Nashville Fairgrounds.
That night sticks in my mind because not only was The Band - one of my favourites - on the bill, but it was the night that the Longhorn got out of his pen. Apart from the animal handler, Ralph Fisher, I was one of the few guys there who knew anything about cattle, so Ralph came looking for me, said, 'Hey, man, I need some help from somebody who knows something about cattle.'
So I had to help Ralph capture this Longhorn, because he was backstage, freaked out by everything that was going on, causing all kinds of trouble, but Ralph and I got him back into his pen.
Ralph was at the top of his game in that time, and it made him a famous wrangler in the United States. He's still a great, great man. I love him.
1976, Nov 11 : Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland,
Bill Mueller : I quit ZZ Top about six or eight months before that tour, but was in touch with Bill Hamm and when they came to DC, I hung out with them at the show for the day. We had a great day and other than the fact that I was working in a nice studio, I really missed being on that tour. As usual, the lunch spread was Mexican to die for.
The animals were totally real and took three or four tractor trailer rigs just to get them around. The long horn steer had the biggest set of horns I have EVER seen on a steer. He was wider than he was long, and he was HUGE. The buffalo was immense too. Just unreal. It was like going to see King Kong. The Buffalo was on a platform on stage left and the steer was stage right. I seem to remember the eagle on a platform behind Frank, but I'm not sure now. There was a snowy owl too.
I stood on stage right next to the buffalo. There was no VIP section at that show, so friends of the band were pretty close to the animals. I could not believe how well behaved the buffalo and steer were considering the raw volume of the band. Holy crap batman. I grew up in farm country and animals that big don't take well to direction. They go where they hell they want to go. But these two were cool with it. They were not drugged either as far as I could tell. The buffalo at least was looking around and snorting everyone once in a while. I'll tell you, when he snorted or stamped, I had a shiver run up my back, cause there was nowhere to go, if he got pissed off.
1976, Nov 26 : The Summit, Houston, Texas, supported by Rory Gallagher and Jay Boy Adams.
Ralph Fisher : At one of our first concerts in Houston, the limos were parked backstage in like a basement, and after the show was over, the buffalo pulled away from me, someone surprised him, and he jumped over two limos that were parked end to end, hood to trunk, and he ended up trapped between the next two. I was able to catch him then.
1976, Nov 28 : Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas, supported by Rory Gallagher and Jay Boy Adams.
Micael Priest : In Fort Worth, (Nov 28, 1976) after they'd been all up the East Coast and Pennsylvania, New York, Chicago and so on, and they stopped at Fort Worth where there was a brand-new, gigantic convention center, backstage was big enough to park a 747 inside, with huge sliding doors that went all the way to the roof.
By that point, Bill Ham's paranoia had gotten to the point where he was hiring nine stretch limos, for every show. He would put the boys, individually, in three of them, and then six decoys in the other limos, just to confuse the fans and try to make sure the band would get safely to the gig.
So they had these limos all lined up in the backstage area at Fort Worth Convention Center, but the doors were open just enough for bright sun to be streaming into this dark enclosed space, with the limos and beyond them the back of the stage. As they were leading the buffalo up the ramp onto the scissor lift for rehearsal, he jerked his nose-ring out, which must have been incredibly painful, so he's throwing his head around, snorting and wild-eyed, and he sees this tall strip of light in the distance and he heads straight for it,. Between him and the light, of course, are the limos with the drivers inside. He charges right through between the first two, but then he gets jammed between the next two, right at the driver's door. This driver wakes from his nap, looks over to see why his limo is shaking, and not five inches from his eye is the face of this insane buffalo, sneezing and blowing blood all over the window. The guy, amazingly, had the presence of mind to lock the limo door, so the buffalo at least couldn't get inside.
Then the wrangler arrived and put a noose around the buffalo and led him away.
It was an astounding show but you couldn't get anywhere near the front, so we could hardly see the band in this huge venue. This was before the advent of those big projection screens. But you could see what the set looked like, and the music was incredibly vivid and powerful.
Ralph Fisher : We sometimes had to replace the snakes if they started getting lethargic. Western Diamondback is the correct name for them. I got them from a dealer in Texas and when we get near he'd bring me brand new snakes. They'd stay very active for several months.
We had to force feed 'em because they hardly ever ate in captivity. We started out with de-fanged rattlesnakes for the safety of handlers and so on, but then we realised they would not eat correctly if they had their fangs removed, so we had to start using what they call hot rattlesnakes - full fangs, venom the whole business. We had to be very careful, but that meant we could give them live mice and they could kill them and consume them, which helped them keep healthy.
The Humane Society kept an eye on us the whole time, so we had to abide by all the rules, which I still do because I like my animals and I want to take care of them anyway.
1977, Dec 29, Taylor County Expo Center, Abilene, Texas, supported by Muddy Waters and Jay Boy Adams.
Billy Gibbons : When we came down to Texas to do some home dates, we were just wondering what flavourful addition could we include to really embrace the feeling that we were trying to give back to our home state. And the blues being such a big part of not only our music but everybody's music in Texas, Muddy Waters seemed to be a logical choice. He was just doing some of his best playing, and it was really a moving experience.
Dusty Hill : We tried to bring it over to Europe but we had a problem with the quarantine on the animals.
(Source : Kerrang, interview with David Sinclair, 15 Dec 1983)
On the snakes:
Billy Gibbons : We learned that you can take the venom out of a rattlesnake but it’s restored within a matter of days. I remember when the weather turned cold… that tour started in the springtime, went through the summertime, and when we started getting into the cold weather the rattlesnakes went into hibernation. They were seemingly rather lifeless. And where do you go to find lively rattlesnakes? Well, sure enough there was a guy in south Texas that ran a rattlesnake farm, and it was still warm down south. He said, ‘Oh yeah, you need some? Sure. I’ll send you some fresh ones.’ Crazy.
On the Pittsburgh riot:
Billy Gibbons : God, what a singular challenge. An occurrence like that is so unexpected.”
On protests from city authorities:
Billy Gibbons : To my recollection I don’t remember anybody making any prohibition until after the fact. The one show in Pittsburgh, we played in a big baseball stadium and the next day was a big major league game and the players were complaining because the animals had gotten loose and put heavy divots in the field. ‘Hey Ralph! Your buffalo just escaped and he’s making third base!’ That was a scene, man.
On the band being scared of the animals:
Billy Gibbons : Not in the traditional sense. But the longhorn steer and the buffalo were placed on these scissor lifts that were actually intended for use in construction sites. These were contraptions that were designed to lift construction workers up 60 feet in the air to reach an area that needed work. So here was a live steer and a buffalo 60 feet up, and just to the side of the stage. We would look up and think, ‘What would happen if these critters got spooked and decided to take a flying leap?’ There was every chance that they would make their way down to where we were standing. That was a little disturbing. Dusty Hill : We were trying to take it to Europe, but the quarantine laws hooked us.
Billy Gibbons : There was such a lengthy quarantine queue. I think it was a waiting period of three or four months. It was just a bit prohibitive to try and get that far ahead, so it never really had a chance to take off.
1977, Dec 31, final show of fifth leg, at The Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas, supported by Jay Boy Adams.
Ralph Fisher : I never once saw any of the band doing drugs on that tour. I only saw them doing business, getting on planes, performing ... business. They'd have a pretty good party after it was all over.
I have the highest respect for that band. They were gentlemen, they treated everyone honestly, and if anything had been going on, I was with them for three years, I would have seen it.
Jay Boy Adams : By then, of course everyone was tired but whenever they walked on stage they either played an excellent show or a killer-ass excellent show.