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The Zombies Scam That Involved ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and Frank Beard

The Zombies Scam That Involved ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and Frank Beard

The Zombies Scam is a funny footnote in the history of rock and roll. It’s when a fake band, including two up-and-coming rockers, tried to cash in on an established group’s success.

Precisely who took part in this shady operation might surprise you, but here’s a clue. It may have been their distinctive drawls and cowboy hats that helped blow their cover.

Knowing this somewhat-obscure story helps you cover rock history from A to Z. We’ll shed light on these musical imposters from Texas and the British band they briefly tried to be. 

Let’s hit it!

What Was The Zombies Scam?

With a hot song on the radio, it’s natural for a band to go on tour. But The Zombies had already broken up when the song Time of the Season eased up the charts in 1968. They were a firmly established British act, so Americans were curious to see them in concert.

The fact that they’d disbanded didn’t stop a booking agency, Delta Productions, from trying to meet the public demand. They simply rounded up other eager musicians willing to perform under the name The Zombies. They did the same thing with other groups, including The Animals and The Archies.

Remember, this was in the days before the internet or even mass media as we know it now. Many fans were unaware of what The Zombies looked like in person. That’s how four guys from Dallas, including Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, later of ZZ Top, became temporary fill-ins. They played a handful of club shows in the Midwest and Canada, and fans were quickly suspicious.

Did the Real Zombies Find Out About the Scam?

The group seemed inexperienced and unrehearsed, first of all, and was a four-piece without The Zombies’ trademark keyboard sounds. The clincher was that the band members spoke with Southern accents, not English brogues.

Before long, word got back to The (actual) Zombies that a scam was happening. Most of the band members laughed it off or took it in stride. Perhaps they were too busy with other musical projects to focus very seriously on it. 

But one of The Zombies, bassist Chris White, saw no humor in the scam. He investigated the situation, even recording a phone call with the fake band’s manager. White spoke to Rolling Stone magazine for an article and said he hated to see the band’s reputation suffer because of upstarts who could barely play their songs.

About The Zombies

Before this case of taken identity, The Zombies enjoyed a great taste of success in just a few short years. They formed in 1961 in St. Albans, northwest of London, while they were all still in school. 

From the start, they had an adventurous sound with engaging melodies and often a hint of a Latin beat. Distinctive lead vocalist Colin Blunstone delivered the sometimes-provocative lyrics clearly and sincerely. However, the band’s secret weapon was keyboardist Rod Argent, who sang harmonies and was also a chief songwriter. 

At first, they called themselves The Mustangs until they discovered other bands already had that name. Their new one was much more memorable but lacked deep significance. 

They went their separate ways in 1968, with some members morphing into the band Argent. The Zombies did eventually return from the dead, but it was 50 years down the road. They toured in 2017 to celebrate the golden anniversary of their landmark album Odessy and Oracle.

About Dusty Hill and Frank Beard

During their short stint as “The Zombies,” Dusty Hill and Frank Beard used the aliases D. Cruz and Chris Page. They later made a name for themselves as two-thirds of “that little ol’ band from Texas,” ZZ Top. Hill and Beard were the rock-solid rhythm section behind bandleader Billy Gibbons, who hailed from Houston.

Gibbons had previous success with The Moving Sidewalks, while Hill and Beard performed together in a group called American Blues. Their real background as blues-rockers, rather than British Invasion wannabes, made them a magical fit for what became ZZ Top. 

They had tremendous success for five decades, selling around 50 million records before Hill passed away in 2021. The band continues with a new bassist, Elwood Francis. Their classics include La Grange, Just Got Paid, Cheap Sunglasses, Gimme All Your Lovin’, and Sharp Dressed Man.

Are The Zombies in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

The Zombies entered the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2019, and such an honor blew them away. The four surviving members attended the ceremony and performed four songs live. In a strange twist of fate, it was 50 years to the day after Time of the Season reached #1.

This experience of playing together again led directly to a new tour, a kind of victory lap for the band.

Greatest Songs by The Zombies

Most bands would kill to have even one hit song, but The Zombies had several. These three sounded fresh way back when, and we think they still do.

Time of the Season

With its bouncy bassline, cha-cha groove, and intoxicating aahs, we’d love it even if it were an instrumental. But on top of that, the sensual lyrics perfectly conjure the Summer of Love. A dazzling organ solo is sweet icing on the cake.  

We also love that a sharp-thinking record executive, Al Kooper, realized its potential and rescued it from obscurity. They released it as a single long after the album was out and they had split up. It kind of resurrected their popularity. 

She’s Not There

Right out of the box, The Zombies sounded different from the other British bands. Here’s your Exhibit A, their first-ever single from 1964. A peppy number with a jazzy electric piano riff reached #2 in America. 

The memorable chorus includes the lines “the way she looked, the way she’d act, and the color of her hair.” If it sounds kind of familiar but not really, maybe you know Santana’s version from 1977 instead.

Tell Her No

Another undisputed classic but, to our ears, not entirely on the same level as the other two. It does have that cool stop-start drumbeat, but maybe the repetitive chorus is mildly annoying. Blunstone sings the word “no” more than 60 times. He really wants to get his message across. He’s asking a friend to please reject his girlfriend’s flirtations because he loves her so much. 

This second single from The Zombies reached #6 in the U.S. 

The Zombies Scam: A Legendary Story in Rock History

So it turns out The Zombies and ZZ Top have something in common besides the letter Z. Sort of, that is, and only for a short while.

Dusty Hill and Frank Beard were part of a group of musicians momentarily masquerading as the real-deal hitmakers from England. Unfortunately for them, the young Texans trying to pull a fast one couldn’t quite pull it off. Though extremely talented, they didn’t have the specific musical skills they needed to successfully pass themselves off as The Zombies.

In the end, we’re the real winners. Maybe we wouldn’t have ZZ Top if fate hadn’t stopped these pseudo-Zombies abruptly in their tracks. 

What do you think of The Zombies scam? Let us know in the comments!