The Story Behind 'Sharp Dressed Man' by ZZ Top

What blues-rock icons mean by sharp dressed.

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The Story Behind 'Sharp Dressed Man' by ZZ Top

"Sharp Dressed Man"
is a song performed by ZZ Top from their 1983 album Eliminator. 

If you want to learn more about the gear, amps, notable covers, live performances, special techniques, tuning, and recommended lessons, read the UG Complete Guide to 'Sharp Dressed Man' by ZZ Top.

Story behind the song

ZZ Top were never recognized as sex symbols or fashion icons, but they demonstrated in this song how rich, elegant men are charming to women. In the '80s, a silk suit was fashionable, although ZZ Top seemed much more comfortable in overalls.

In the Spin magazine interview, Dusty Hill said:

"Sharp-dressed depends on who you are. If you're on a motorcycle, really sharp leather is great. If you're a punk rocker, you can get sharp that way. You can be sharp or not sharp in any mode. It's all in your head. If you feel sharp, you be sharp."

According to Billy Gibbons, he thought of the concept for this song from a movie with a character, who was noted in the credits as "Sharp-Eyed Man" (possibly the 1981 film "The Amateur").

This was one of the first ZZ Top songs with synthesizers. Mixed with Billy Gibbons' trademark guitar sound, it provided a fresh sound without distancing from their old fans.

Music videos

Official music video

The official video is directed by Tim Newman and continues the main concept of the "Gimme All Your Lovin'" video, which was released earlier. As in "Gimme All Your Lovin'" video, an attractive man (dancer and model Peter Tramm), who feels frustration in his servile job is supported by a trio of attractive and slightly mysterious women driving in ZZ Top's signature red car. ZZ Top play a role of performing band members in the night club and some sort of ethereal spirits, who encourage the young man by presenting him the car keys, that permit him to go for a drive with the women. Then he returns to the nightclub and empowered by his new status and ZZ Top's backing, starts a romantic adventure with an attractive young woman (actress Galyn Görg) who has previously abandoned her date.

This song brought plenty of new fans to ZZ Top when the video ran regularly on MTV.

Beautiful women were a fixture of ZZ Top's videos and stage shows. The women in the video were Playboy models - Jeana Tomasino, Kymberly Herrin, and Daniele Arnaud.

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Live version

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That song and the whole album really embrace the simplicity of blues and techno music with the complex challenge of how to blend them together. If you zero in on the middle solo, you will find a slide guitar part played in open E tuning on a Fender Esquire and a sudden shift halfway through the solo to standard Spanish electric tuning played on my good ol' Les Paul, Pearly Gates. Both were played through a Marshall Plexi 100-watt head with 2 angled cabinets with Celestion 25-watt greenbacks. It was a compound track, two parts blended to one. - Billy Gibbons.

Billy Gibbons

Gibson '59 sunburst Les Paul Standard "Pearly Gates".

This was Billy's first Les Paul, the so-called "The Holy Grail" of Les Pauls. A rancher who lived in Downey, Texas, who was once playing in a country band, sold it to Billy for 250$.

This guitar is still in its original condition, and Billy refuses to sell it, even though he was offered 5 million dollars. As of more recent days, he tends to use the custom shop replica for live gigs, and keep the original Pearly Gates safe.

Gibson made a Pearly Gates guitar in 2009: signed and played by Billy aged version or the lower price version without Billy's signature.

Gibson Custom Billy Gibbons "Pearly Gates" Les Paul Standard

1951 Fender Esquire was used for the slide solo in this song.

Dusty Hill

Dusty Hill is known for playing Fender Telecaster and Fender Precision Basses. He makes a growling, punchy sound with a spicy midrange and driving low end. Although he plays with his fingers, his attack is pick-like.

The Fender Custom Shop released a Dusty Hill Signature Precision in 2011. It has a lightweight ash Telecaster body, reverse P-Bass maple neck, and a Seymour Duncan designed single coil pickup.


If you want to learn more about the gear, amps, notable covers, live performances, special techniques, tuning, and recommended lessons, read the UG Complete Guide to 'Sharp Dressed Man' by ZZ Top.



10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    If your head ain't left 'n' rightin' or your foot ain't tapping when you listen to this song, you best turn in your guitar.    One of the coolest songs ever made.
    Whenever i'm getting ready for something that involves me wearing a suit...I always put this song on to get me in the mood. Feel very lucky to have seen this live, absolutely adore this song