ZZ Top teams with Brooks & Dunn for top-selling fair show

Brian Mackey

ZZ Top and Brooks & Dunn are this year’s hot ticket at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.

Earlier this week, the double bill passed the 11,000 mark in ticket sales for their Friday night concert.

That nearly doubles the tickets sold for the second-biggest draw, Fergie, who had 5,734 at her performance last weekend.

ZZ Top claims it’s the longest-performing rock band with all the original members.

Formed in 1969, the hard-rock trio had its biggest commercial success in the 1980s with hits like “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Sleeping Bag.”

On other half of the bill, Brooks & Dunn has been a presence at or near the top of the country charts since forming in 1991.

According to the All Music Guide, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have sold more records than any other duo except Simon & Garfunkel.

Their hits include “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” and “Play Something Country,” which in 2005 became their 20th, and most recent, No. 1 country song.

The pairing of ZZ Top and Brooks & Dunn has drawn fans from two genres that have proven popular with fairgoers.

It’s a match that might have proven problematic earlier in ZZ Top’s career.

In a video on the band’s Web site, drummer Frank Beard (ironically the member of the trio with the least facial hair) recounts a time when they opened for the Rolling Stones in 1972. Beard is seen playing poker and dice games with bandmates Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill.

“You remember, you and Dusty were wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans and cowboy hats?” Beard asked. “And the curtains opened and just a pall of horror fell over the entire audience — I mean, they thought, ‘Oh good lord, they’re a country band.’”

With Gibbons’ and Hill’s long beards — among the most recognizable visages in all of music — it’s a safe bet no one makes that mistake anymore.

Opening for the bands is Heidi Newfield, the former Trick Pony vocalist who released her first solo album, “What Am I Waiting For,” this month.

Her songs are less raucous than those of Trick Pony, and more introspective and personal.

Acknowledging how difficult it can be for country artists to leave a band for a solo career, Newfield said in a recent telephone interview that she has been buoyed by the support of colleagues in the music business and her fans.

“I didn’t want to be complacent and ... paint myself in a corner anymore,” Newfield said.

Brian Mackey can be reached at (217) 747-9587 or brian.mackey@sj-r.com.



 * When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

* Where: Illinois State Fair Grandstand

* Tickets: $38 for track and best reserved seating; $30 to $34 for reserved seating; tickets are available at the Grandstand ticket office or through all Ticketmaster options — by phone at 544-9400, (800) 827-8927 and (800) 359-2525 for TTY orders, online at www.ticketmaster.com and at all physical outlets.