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La Grange

by

ZZ Top



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a whorehouse. Many people in Texas knew about it, but when the song was released it drew so much attention to the illegal activities going on there that they had to cease operations.
"The Chicken Ranch," or Miss Edna's Boarding house in La Grange was probably the oldest establishment in Texas catering the the oldest profession. It was closed down by a zealous TV reporter from Houston, who couldn't find enough vice and corruption to report on in Houston. He challenged the governor on the issue of why it continued to operate in fairly plain sight. The governor had no choice but to order the sheriff to close it. Miss Edna's girls had weekly visits from the local doctors, so they were "clean." The girls spent their money in La Grange and when a new hospital was needed, Miss Edna gave the first and largest donation. The reporter is still on the air crusading against such hideous crimes such as slime in the ice machines of restaurants. Most of the building still stands, only a room was moved to Dallas for a nightclub. A "Ten to get in" was the price. It is doubtful that the Top ever patronized it, if they did it was when they were young, as there was a strict dress codes for patrons. (thanks, gary - La Grange, TX)
The place in this song is the subject of the movie The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, staring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. It was eventually made into an off-Broadway play. In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, ZZ Top bass player Dusty Hill explained: "Did you ever see the movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? That's what it's about. I went there when I was 13. A lot of boys in Texas, when it's time to be a guy, went there and had it done. Fathers took their sons there. You couldn't cuss in there. You couldn't drink. I had an air of respectablility. Miss Edna wouldn't stand for no bulls--t. That's the woman that ran the place, and you know she didn't look like Dolly Parton, either. I'll tell you, she was a mean-looking woman. But oil field workers and senators would both be there. The place had been open for over a hundred years, and then this a--hole decides he's going to do an exposé and close it. And he stirred up so much s--t that it had to close. La Grange is a little bitty town, and little towns in Texas are real conservative. But they fought against it. They didn't want it closed, because it was like a landmark. It was on a little ranch outside of town, the Chicken Ranch. Anyway, we wrote this song and put it out, and it was out maybe three months before they closed it. It pissed me off. It was a whorehouse, but anything that lasts a hundred years, there's got to be a reason."
La Grange is a real town in Texas. Coca-Cola had a bottling plant there.
The music is based on a John Lee Hooker song called "Boogie Chillen." Hooker died in 2001 at age 83.
In 1992, Bernard Besman, who owned the copyright to "Boogie Chillen," claimed he had just recently heard the song and sued ZZ Top. After years of litigation, a court ruled that "Boogie Chillen" was in the public domain and ZZ Top was not liable.
This was ZZ Top's biggest hit at the time. They were big in Texas, but it would be a few years before they became nationally known.
The song is based around variations of a single chord. (thanks, James - Tracy, CA)
ZZ Top
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Comments (32):

First of all the "Chicken Ranch" looked nothing like the house in the movie. It was in fact, an old Chicken Ranch. During the Great Depression men would trade live chickens for nookie. The Ranch was a Texas institution and State Senators and the winners of the Texas Longhorn game and the A&M Aggies visited the Ranch till the 1950's. La Grange was recorded at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, Texas (still in operation). Robin Hood Brians, the owner, was the engineer. Bill Ham, the manager of ZZ Top allowed no overdubs. Robin Hood said there were only 3 of them, so the sound was sparse. He sent Ham off to buy some Barbeque and overdubbed the session. When Ham returned he said "that's the sound I want". There was nobody on the record but Gibbons, Beard and Hill. the riff was from several old blues songs, but heck, so were riffs on hundreds of hit records including almost everything ever recorded by the Stones.
- coy, Palestine, TX
Good blues rock from a top notch band. ZZ Top does tend to sing some raunchy songs but who the
f**k cares? It's just good old fashioned rock and roll.
- Joel, Richland Springs, SC
a true classic...wondered why zz didnt get any credit at all with the movie...it would have been nice if they played la grange in the opening sequence....anyway...gibbons has been my guitar hero ever since I first heard those harmonic notes in the song...smoking and it still is a crowd favorite...ironically his guitar is not set up for super distortion like we tend to think...but somewhere in between with the natural sweetness of pearly (his les paul) to make that zz sound....of course the fingers on billy's hand have a considerable factor in this tone...a true legend in his own time...the harmonic king...I wish I could meet him and tell him how much he has influenced my guitar playing.
- jeff, panama city , FL
all this wining about them ripping off these old blues men.so what? i wonder which song still gets the most airplay.oh wait a minute....i think it's..oh yeah that's right la grange.this song is like therapy.it has the lowest burn out factor of any song i've ever heard.it never ever gets old.and sometimes i still play it 2 or 3 times in a row.zz top,greatest rock band that ever lived.
- m., marion, KY
This song is featured in the 4th or 5th song set in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
- Mike, Lincoln Park, MI
I second Brian in CT's comment. The re-mastered-for-digital La Grange always makes me mentally wince at that first drum hit, it just sounds pasted in. I wonder if the original-airplay mastering is around anywhere in digital format?
Anyone? (Ben Stein) Anyone?
- Mike, Peachland, NC
I second Brian in CT's comment. The re-mastered-for-digital La Grange always makes me mentally wince at that first drum hit, it just sounds pasted in. I wonder if the original-airplay mastering is around anywhere in digital format?
Anyone? (Ben Stein) Anyone?
- Mike, Peachland, NC
I am from La Grange Tx. and most of my family is in La Grange or Schulenburge and around that area. I hear alot of interesting stories about the Chicken Ranch, My uncles and some of the high powered friends/Government officials and business men from all around the country payed visits to the Chicken Ranch. I have too much history to even write about on this site. However, one much less talked about fact is that when the Chicken Ranch was shut down, they sold off parts of the land and it just so happens that my Great grandfather Eubanks was around to buy some of this land that it was on. The deed to this land hangs on the wall inside every house i've lived in. It is also well known by the locals that ZZ Top does still visit La Grange for friends and family. Actually many famous people do. but because it is a close community in the "old community" its not talked about or advertised. also Willie Nelson is known to visit the La Grange area often.
- Adam, La Grange, TX
this song is the best song on guitar hero 3 along with one, and welcome to the jungle!
- Zakk, Ponoka, AB
P.A. in Paris, those are called "harmonics." Depending on where along the string your thumb brushes it, different harmonics are produced. I used this technique sometimes in my guitar-playing back in the 70s.
- Bryan, Atlanta, GA
Gibbons used pinched harmonies like crazy in the solos. This is when you strike the string normally but then let your thumb rub against the string. It is usually done once or twice to accentuate a particular note, but here he does it on nearly every note, mostly in the second solo. This produces the scream like sound and at some point the notes seem to be random.
- P.A., Paris, France
Marvin Zindler, the popular Houston reporter who exposed the brothel in LA Grange, died July 29, 2007 from cancer.
- Bryan, Spring, TX
This song illustrates the blues roots of rock 'n roll just brilliantly! It starts out sounding for all the world like an old bluesman picking out a tune on his acoustic quitar. The quiet riff then segues into those perfect rockin power chords! What a coup--it's just perfect.
- Guy, Woodinville, WA
James from Westchester: Yes, they probably do hire a third guitarist for tours. (Just as they presumably hired a dedicated keyboardist to play in their 1980s and '90s tours, when their sound became heavily synth-laden.) This sort of thing is pretty commonplace in concert tours in general. Another prime example is post-Peter Gabriel Genesis. Once Phil Collins became their frontman, they needed to bring in a dedicated drummer for tours. The same went for lead guitar after Steve Hackett left.
- Joshua, Twin Cities, MN
I agree with you all. ZZ TOP also covered Boom Boom.
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
A "Ten to get in" was the price. It is doubtful that the Top ever patronized it, if they did it was when they were young, as there was a strict dress codes for patrons. (thanks, gary - La Grange, TX)

Too funny, what does a dress code have to do with getting into the 'Chicken Ranch' ? I have a hard time believing ZZ Top would be turned away at the door. On top of that, what makes you think ZZ Top couldn't meet the dress code ?? Apparently you have missed music awards where they are all dressed in suits.
- Ben, Pensacola, FL
The "how how how how" part was inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom."
- Warrinder, A Town, Canada
One of the places where ZZ Top's genius shines is in their ability to compose songs that use more instruments in the studio than they play live, and when you hear the live concert you don't miss the extra instruments at all. Yes, there is another guitar on La Grange, but it is a part that they simply ignore when playing live. There's another guitar in 'Tush,' too. Ditto 'Jesus Just Left Chicago.' But they don't add the extra parts for concerts. Sometimes they do use taped accompaniments when playing live - horns for 'She Don't Love Me She Loves My Automobile,' an extra guitar lick in 'Gimme All Your Lovin,' synthesizers in 'Legs.' But these parts are usually frilly extras that aren't really needed. The last time I saw them (last summer) they played 'Legs' with nothing but the three of them, even though there's lots more going on in the studio version, and it sounded just fine.
- Jim, Aurora, CO
Thanks Jole. I wondered if I was the only one who noticed the similarities in the two intros. I didn't know "Shake Your Hips" was a Slim Harpo tune though. I haven't heard any Slim Harpo songs, and I have "Shake Your Hips" on Exile on Main Street.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
I have a question about this song, and I hope I can word it accurately. How do they play this live? If you listen, you can distinctly hear three non-percussive roles. The bass layer (which sounds frightfully boring to play), some rhythmn guitar keeping along with Beard, and the soaring lead guitar. I understand in the studio how you can lay tracks over each other, but when they play this live (which must be, uh, all the time, right?), do they bring a third guitarist out?
- James, Westchester, England
Van Halen supposedly borrowed the soft guitar in the intro and break during the breaks for 'Hot For Teacher'
- Dave, Latham , NY
ZZ Top's 'La Grange' is a blues rock standard in terms of cover songs. Joe Satriani, Stevie Vai, and John Patrucci come together for a killer jam off the song, and it can be found as a video online if you look.
- Dave, Latham , NY
When I first started to listen to rock music as a kid, radio stations would play vinyl records. I loved this song and the drum lead-in that preceeds the main guitar/bass line that makes up the song's structure. Since its digital format became the only played medium I don't like it as much. That drum piece's high end sounds, now more pure or more limited, are regardless muted and the recording suffers. A perfect example of why sometimes analog is just better. Another example very similar in the same way with now-muted drums is the Beatles' "I Feel Fine."
- Brian, Meriden, CT
This song sounds like it's borrowed from Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips". The Rolling Stones cover this on Exile on Main St.Listen to the intro...
- Joel, Arlington, VA
Billy Gibbons is such a great guitarist, Jimi Hendrix admired him, and Jeff Beck speaks very highly of him as well. His flowing style, mixed with blues, rock, and lots of funk is truly original.
Frank Beard and Dusty Hill one of the best rhythm sections in rock, also they hold the record for the longest running original member rock group!
- PHIL, San Jose, CA
This was a cool song that we jammed to in high school since we were from LaGrange KY....
- chuck, Louisville, KY
One of the greatest songs of all time
- Cody, San Antonio, TX
Perfect song to cruise down the highway to
- BlackDog, New Milford, NJ
not the biggest zz top fan either but love the song...great song to jam to with your buddies.
- Evan, Acworh, GA
Cool song, I'm not ZZ Top fan but I love when this song comes on the radio.
- Brian, Paoli, IN
I have heard that the line "...and a Ten to get yourself in- hmm, hmm..." was originally "...and intend to get yourself infected..."
- Eddie, Missoula, MT
This song started out as a "jam session."
- M, Merrill, WI
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