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.”
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
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