ZZ Top – La Grange

The dynamics of this song makes it. When La Grange kicks in…it kicks in with a vengeance. The song has an interesting back story.

This song is about a certain house of ill repute. It was called “The Chicken Ranch,” or Miss Edna’s Boarding House in La Grange Texas, it was probably the oldest establishment in Texas, catering to the oldest profession.

All good things must come to an end. In 1973 Marvin Zindler, a reporter from KTRK-TV in Houston decided to make a real name for himself and started bringing media attention to the Ranch. He claimed his motive for exposing the Ranch was for the Texas Department of Public Safety and local police to combat organized crime and corruption at the Ranch. Governor Dolph Briscoe was forced to close the establishment due to excessive media coverage.

A very successful musical was written about the Ranch. Edna herself had a silent role in the Broadway production which later turned into a movie, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”.

A footnote to the story… Two lawyers from Houston bought the building and land and moved the main house to Dallas in 1977. It opened as The Chicken Ranch restaurant in September of 1977, with Miss Edna as the hostess. The building and furniture have since been auctioned off and the remainder of the original house has been left on the property in very poor condition. Edna later died in 2012 in Phoenix, AZ at the age 84.

The song peaked at #41 in the Billboard 100 and #34 in Canada in 1974. It was on the album Tres Hombres.

Billy Gibbons: “‘La Grange’ was one of the rites of passage for a young man. It was a cathouse, way back in the woods. The simplicity of that song was part of the magic – only two chords. And the break coming out of the solo – those notes are straight Robert Johnson. He did it as a shuffle. I just dissected the notes.”

ZZ Top bass player Dusty Hill: “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. It had an air of respectability. 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 100 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

Rumour spreadin’ ’round
In that Texas town
About that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about
Just let me know if you wanna go
To that home out on the range
They got a lot of nice girls

Have mercy
A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw
A haw, haw, haw

Well, I hear it’s fine
If you got the time
And the ten to get yourself in
A hmm, hmm
And I hear it’s tight
Most ev’ry night
But now I might be mistaken
Hmm, hmm, hmm

Have mercy

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

27 thoughts on “ZZ Top – La Grange”

    1. It does. Billy Gibbons is a heck of a guitar player. When Jimi Hendrix praised you…you have to be pretty good.

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      1. Hendrix was like that. He said the same about Terry Kath from Chicago. He was always listening to other players to learn new things. Hendix had a unique approach, but always wanted to keep moving further.

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      1. While “Gimme All Your Lovin” and “Sharp Dressed Man” are cool as well, I particularly dig ZZ Top’s older stuff: “Salt Lick”, “Brown Sugar”, “Waiting For the Bus” and, of course not to forget, “Tush”!

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      2. Tush was the first song as a kid that I recognized them by. I love their raw earlier music also. “Francine” is pretty good also.

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      1. No…funny story…for some odd reason…probably because of Pardon being in it. Mom took me as a kid to it…then got up and got me out of there lol…

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      2. But how Vic? Look at the name of the movie! She loved Dolly bless her heart…and Burt….he was in it right?

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      3. No I never did. By the time I thought about it she was out of it….it was too late.
        Thinking back…I was like what the hell?

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      4. I know!!! Bless her I talked her into taking me to The Car and It’s Alive…thosescary B movies and she sat it… but I guess sex was out of the question…I think it’s the words they used.

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      5. It was pretty raunchy but…it is a movie about a brothel. “Whorehouse” is a dead giveaway.

        I can remember my parents going to see the original Star Wars at a drive-in. They refused to take me. My dad said I was too young. What? Leia kisses Luke on the cheek? *eyesrolling*

        I worked with an officer that was a part-time stage actor. He took the Ed Earl Dodd part in a musical in the middle 90s that was performed at the Raleigh Little Theater (an outdoor amphitheater). If you knew Eddie, you knew he wasn’t the type to curse. He was very much an “Andy Griffith” type cop. Well…the part required him to curse…a LOT. Part of his struggle to curse made his part even funnier.

        A little trivia on him…his dad was one of Buford Pusser’s deputies. Eddie walked around with one bullet in his uniform shirt pocket (which is more in line with Barney, I know). It was a tribute/functional reason. (Recounted by Eddie…) When he was young, his dad had been cleaning his service revolver. A bullet rolled off the coffee table and his dad didn’t see where it went. He just replaced the bullet with another one when he reloaded his weapon. The next morning, before work, he saw the rogue bullet and put it in his uniform shirt pocket. On duty, his dad was on a routine stop when the driver got out of the car and started shooting. His dad fired back a couple of times and headed to the rear of his patrol car. They continued to exchange bullets until his dad ran out. In the confusion, his dad lost count of how many times the other guy had fired. He heard the guy still coming towards the back of his patrol car and remembered his rogue bullet. When the guy rounded the bumper, his dad shot him before the guy could shoot first (assuming that he could…this was around 1968/1969 so…revolvers…five shot? six shot?). Eddie always carried that “one rogue bullet” in his shirt pocket, too, because “you just never know” (his words).

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  1. That is such a cool story…a great reason to have one in your pocket! That is awesome. One of Pusser’s deputies…the stories that man must have had. Pusser wasn’t angel that is for sure. I would love to hear some real stories.

    To young for Star Wars???

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