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American Blues - Do Their Thing (1969)


Rocky Hill - guitar
Dusty Hill - bass
Richard Harris - drums
Frank Beard - drums

American Blues were a 1960s Texas-based garage band who played a psychedelic style of blues rock music influenced by the 13th Floor Elevators. They are most famous for including two future members of the band ZZ Top in their ranks, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

From 1966 to 1968, they played the Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston circuit and headlined in three clubs all called "The Cellar", in Dallas at clubs such as "The Walrus" on Mockingbird Lane, and in Houston at "Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine" on Allen's Landing, as late as 1968.

Around 1968 the band (the two Hill brothers and Beard) decided to leave the Dallas–Fort Worth area, relocating to Houston. At this time, however, guitarist Rocky Hill wanted to focus on "straight blues", while his brother Dusty wanted the band to rock more. Rocky left the band, and was soon replaced by Billy Gibbons, of Houston psychedelic-rockers Moving Sidewalks, becoming the band ZZ Top.

Rocky Hill continued to tour around Texas, and elsewhere, becoming one of a number of guitarists well-known within the state for their blues guitar prowess, such as Rocky Athis and Charlie Sexton. In this role, his playing in Austin was said [by whom?] to have been an influence on guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan's formative years, as well. He sometimes referred to himself as "The Anti-Clapton", and one writer with the Houston Press called Rocky "perhaps the wildest and scariest -- both onstage and off -- of all the Texas white-boy blues guitarists."



Released by MCA's Uni subsidiary, 1969's "The American Blues Do Their Thing" was a major improvement. Self-produced, the collection found the band opting for a major change in direction. Written by the Hills, material such as the lead-off "You Were So Close To Me", "Captain Fire" and "Just Plain Jane" found the band attempting to capitalize on San Francisco-styled psychedelics. Elsewhere, the collection found the group mining a more conventional rock format; "Wonder Man" and "Shady" reflecting a distinctive Cream-influence, while the blazing "Comin' Back Home" (complete with Beard and Rocky Hill meltdown solos) offered up a nice Hendrix imitation. Sure, it was largely derivative, but that didn't lessen the enjoyment factor. A commercial failure, Uni promptly dropped the band. (On a personal note, we've always wondered about the discrepancy between the front and back covers showing a trio and the liner notes listing four members.) Beard promptly left to join the newly formed ZZ Top, quickly recruiting Dusty as bassist.

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