ZZ Top – Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago

It should be illegal to hear one of these songs without the other. The songs were off ZZ Top’s album Tres Hombres released in 1973. The album peaked at #8 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1974.

Billy Gibbons got the idea for this song when he was a teenager. He was talking on the phone to a friend who was known as “R&B Jr,” who had lots of strange sayings in his lexicon. One day Billy was talking to him on the phone when he blurted out, “Jesus Just Left Chicago!”

Billy Gibbons: “The two songs [“Waitin’ For The Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”] were written separately during sessions that were not too far apart. We were in the process of compiling the tracks for the album Tres Hombres, and that segue was a fortunate miscalculation by the engineer. He had been attempting to splice out some blank tape, and the result is that the two come off as a single work. It just seemed to work.”

Billy Gibbons on Tres Hombres: We could tell that we had something special. The record became quite the turning point for us. The success was handwriting on the wall, because from that point we became honorary citizens of Memphis.


From Songfacts

Also alluded to as “Jesus Done Left Chicago,” this track follows on from “Waitin’ for the Bus” on the Tres Hombres album – radio stations often play the songs together.

The Deep South is noted for its Christian roots, and in spite of the hostile reception rock ‘n’ roll received from the Bible Belt when it first reared its head, many contemporary musicians began their musical careers in or around the church. The most famous white rock ‘n’ roller from the Deep South to combine the two was of course Elvis Presley, who recorded the odd religious song.

Although “Jesus Just Left Chicago” isn’t exactly a hymn, it does have a spiritual dimension and is written more in the style of Black Christian music, adhering to a strict blues format. And Gibbons is actually known as Reverend Billy Gibbons! 

Talking about this song with Rolling Stone, Gibbons explained: “We took what could have been an easy 12-bar blues and made it more interesting by adding those odd extra measures. It’s the same chords as “La Grange” with the Robert Johnson lick, but weirder. Robert Johnson was country blues – not that shiny hot-rod electric stuff. But there was a magnetic appeal: ‘What can we take and interpret in some way?'”

An early ZZ Top track, this kicks off the album Tres Hombres. For years, radio stations played it along with the following track, “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” keeping the natural segue on the album. This was an early casualty of automated corporate radio, as stations now rarely let one song flow into another like they do on the album.

In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, ZZ Top bass player Dusty Hill said: “I’ve always liked that song. It’s a working man’s song. It’s been a couple of years, but I went to Austin from Houston and I decided, hell, I’ll ride the bus. I hadn’t done it in a long time. And you can meet some very unique people on a bus and in a bus station. I like to people watch. I love bus stations and train stations. The thing about a bus is who you have to sit beside. If the guy’s got good wine, it’s OK.”

Waitin’ On The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago

Have mercy, been waitin’ for the bus all day
Have mercy, been waitin’ for the bus all day
I got my brown paper bag and my take-home pay

Have mercy, old bus be packed up tight
Have mercy, old bus be packed up tight
Well, I’m glad just to get on and home tonight

Right on, that bus done got me back
Right on, that bus done got me back
Well, I’ll be ridin’ on the bus till I Cadillac


Jesus just left Chicago
And he’s bound for New Orleans
Well now, Jesus just left Chicago
And he’s bound for New Orleans
Yeah, yeah
Workin’ from one end to the other and all points in between

Took a jump through Mississippi
Well, muddy water turned to wine
Took a jump through Mississippi
Muddy water turned to wine
Yeah, yeah
Then out to California through the forests and the pines
Ah, take me with you, Jesus

You might not see him in person
But he’ll see you just the same
You might not see him in person
But he’ll see you just the same
Yeah, yeah
You don’t have to worry ’cause takin’ care of business is his name

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

12 thoughts on “ZZ Top – Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago”

  1. Waiting for the bus Soon they’d be waiting for that cool red car full of nice-looking ladies, LOL. Not bad stuff – I have to admit, not exactly what I love listening to in the house but it has its place and I bet it would be excellent to hear / see them do it live. I find that’s my take on most blues rock- makes a good concert but i don’t have a whole lot of patience to just listen to it at home.
    He’s right about the bus though! I did the Atlanta trip once on a bus, came down here first time to Texas on Greyhound … mainly because I don’t like flying (my ears get really painful and don’t quickly get back to normal). Those runs were long , frustrating at times, missed connections etc, but they were pretty neat to see,hear different people and really watch the countryside go by.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They are a band that you can split up their career. Pre-Eliminator and afterward.

      With me I like listening to their early stuff in the car while driving.

      I’ve never ridden a bus like that before. I automatically think of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It would be pretty cool to see the country but I would think it could get really frustrating with everyone on there.

      I don’t like flying…for different reasons. Takeoff and Landing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I was going to comment “can’t go wrong with some ZZ Top” but, Deke beat me to it.

    I lived in Texas six weeks shy of nine years. I never got the chance to see them live. I did, however, cruise thru La Grange several times. We even have a La Grange here in NC.

    Jesus left Raleigh a LONG time ago. 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As much fun as “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimme All Your Lovin‘“ were, ZZ Top’s early phase was their best. I don’t think they have another “Tres Hombres” in them.

    I realize it’s a bit of an unfair reference. It’s like asking Paul McCartney to write another “Band on the Run” album!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like their rawness early on…some great music. I wish they would try to capture the same sound as that one more time but…like you said it probably won’t happen.

      Liked by 1 person

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