In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, bass player Dusty Hill explained: "Tush, where I grew up, had two meanings. It meant what it means in New York. Tush is also like plush, very lavish, very luxurious. So it depended on how you used it. If somebody said, "That's a tush car,' you knew they weren't talking about the rear and of the car. That's like saying, 'That's a cherry short.' But tush as in 'That's a nice tush on that girl,' that's definitely the same as the Yiddish word. I don't know how we got it in Dallas. All it could have took was one guy moving down from New York."
According to guitarist Billy Gibbons
, they got the idea for the title from a song called "Tush Hog" by the Texas musician Roy Head, released in 1967.
Like "Pearl Necklace
," "Tube Snake Boogie
," and "Velcro Fly
," this song has different meanings depending on the listener interpretation. Such ambiguity keeps the songs radio-friendly while appealing to ZZ Top's core audience.
The group came up with this song before a gig at a rodeo arena in Florence, Alabama. They were practicing a few hours before the show when Gibbons hit on the opening lick. He kept the riff going, and Dusty Hill improvised a vocal.
The band pointed out to anyone who may have been offended that this song is gender neutral - it can be sung by a man or woman. Their point was proven in 1981 when the group Girlschool covered it on their album Hit & Run.
ZZ Top considered changing the lyrics and performing this as "Bush" when they were asked to play for fellow Texan George W. Bush at his inauguration party in 2001. They decided against it.
This was the first national hit for ZZ Top, who were very popular in Texas but little-known elsewhere. They usually play it in their encore.
Billy Gibbons played a Les Paul guitar on this track through a 1969 Marshall Super Lead 100 amp. In the solo, he used a slide. He also used an unusual processing device called a Cooper Time Cube. Gibbons explained in Guitar World: "In a small rack-mounted can sits a small speaker right up next to maybe 50 feet of one-inch rubber tubing, which is coiled, spring-like. The sound waves actually take longer to travel, having to make these corners, creating a type of delay which is quite unlike the familiar sound of a digital delay. Some of the guitar sounds that appear to be doubled on the early albums are actually the byproduct of that oddball Cooper Time Cube."
This song has been used in the following movies:
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
Only the Brave (2017)
The Bucket List (2007)
Ghost Rider (2007)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Private Parts (1997)
Dazed and Confused (1993)
And in these TV series:
Breaking Bad ("I.F.T." - 2010)
King of the Hill ("The Company Man" - 1997)
The Sopranos ("The Weight" - 2002)
Knight Rider ("Voo Doo Knight" - 1986)
Miami Vice ("Calderone's Return: Part 1 - The Hit List" - 1984)