Welcome Linden Hudson of ZZ Top Fame!

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Linden Odell Hudson, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. Stillin Rockville

    Stillin Rockville living the Flitcraft parable

    Location:
    a farm in Iowa
    It's really weird to look up Bill Ham and find there were *two* fairly well-known men by that name, but the one with the long ZZ-style beard is *not* the manager of the band- that guy was a psychedelic artist of some sort.

    To me, when a guy like Ham or Peter Grant has a "producer" credit, it means "the 800 pound gorilla who throws his weight wherever he likes". And just as a band tends to needs a Billy to drive the art, they also tend to need a Bill to deal with all the other business they can't/don't want to do- at least until they decide maybe they *do* want or need to deal with those things. Which is when it gets weird. It is interesting that Ham seemed to be like a super-fan as manager- he needed to believe it was Billy and Dusty and Frank doing it all on their own even more than a 16 year old kid with a bedroom wall covered in ZZ Top posters.
     
  2. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Well, yes, producer is probably the same sometimes as "bully pulpit". Ham was trying to keep the "brand" pure and un-diluted. He also didn't want scandals about cheating in the studio (if there is such a thing, maybe Milli Vanilli). But you know he had other bands such as Point Blank, Clint Black, Van Wilks (I was singer for Van Wilks band in early 70s for awhile). So Ham didn't have just one thing to do. I knew Rusty Burns (guitarist for Point Blank) and I thought he was a killer guitarist too. Just great.
     
  3. Ryan Lux

    Ryan Lux Senior Member

    Location:
    Toronto, ON, CA
    It’s really unfortunate when credit hogging happens. Other than ego, it makes no sense that an artist would torpedo a valuable working relationship for something 99.9999% of the world could care less about. Would Gimme All Your Lovin’ have been less of a hit if Linden’s name was on it as a co-writer? Of course not.
     
  4. spice9

    spice9 Senior Member

    Location:
    New York, NY
    Linden, You said Bill Ham was hardly ever around. Then how the hell did he get songwriting credits on a bunch of songs, especially on the first 2 albums? Was Gibbons so blase or wet behind the ears to allow it to happen? Also, after those first 2 albums many songs were credited to Gibbons, Dusty and Frank. Did Dusty and Frank actually write lyrics and come up with melodies? Something tells me Billy did all the heavy lifting and that songwriting credits were awarded haphazardly. Of course you should have gotten some as well. Please let us know the truth.
     
  5. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Comment from Linden: I wasn’t around for the initial albums. I was only around for El Loco and Eliminator, and I was living at Beards house. All I can do is tell you how song property and credits appear to work legally, and I can state and only guess what was really going on.

    First let me state: Bill Ham was the boss. He put together the band and Gibbons was the important one with more clout. ZZ Top musicians were employees of Bill Ham. Songwriting doesn’t work the way you think. Bill Ham could have contractually claimed all the songwriting if he wanted to. The biz arrangement apparently stipulated who got what at first. Bill Ham apparently dictated that he would be co writer with Billy at first. That began to change after a couple of albums and Frank got a few so did Dust.

    Hypothetical scenario: If you had a record company you could pay a ghostwriter to write and you could put your name on as writer assuming it was contractually written and agreed. Songs are property (like land) and can be bought, sold, borrowed, etc.. If someone cheats someone else in a songwriting dispute, it’s basically not a criminal matter but rather a civil dispute, meaning its up to the people to get lawyers, civil courts etc and they fight it out in the civil world (not the criminal court system). If a guy didn’t get credit for a song and someone stole it for their album, there are no song police that are going to bust through the doors and fix the problem. The person who thought he was cheated needs to have a copyright (such as I did for Thug) or prove fully that he was ripped off. However, when people steal song material blatantly they are often shamed by the public and they can get a bad reputation. But there are no song police. It’s a civil matter.

    This is my impression of it, and Ive been in a lawsuit for a song, and Ive had to learn a lot. But you should talk to a music lawyer for specifics. I hope ive shined light on this.

    (By the way, in the early days of ZZ Billy Ham was more in the picture as he had fewer or no groups signed. Later he had several groups and couldn't be everywhere.)
    (Also: correct me if you know more that I do, but Ive been through the process).
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  6. spice9

    spice9 Senior Member

    Location:
    New York, NY
    Of course I don't know more than you do! I did research that Ham owns the music publishing to all ZZ Top songs, so his heirs must be doing cartwheels knowing they'll be getting fat checks forever. I guess when a band makes it as big as ZZ Top has there is more than enough money to go around. Especially because in ZZ's case there were only three members of the group. And it sounds like Frank and Dusty weren't all that materialistic. Plus I wouldn't know but I don't think the Toppers all had multiple marriages with lots of child and spousal support payments to make. Those alone can keep you on the road forever. I'm a magazine writer myself, and yours is a great story. Wish I had a magazine to write it for!

    I have another question if I may...

    Up through El Loco ZZ Top was big but not THAT big. Eliminator changed everything and made them not only music superstars but MTV superstars. What was it like for you to see this happen? Were you stunned that they kind of suddenly were global stars? Were THEY stunned? Had Billy and the boys ever even thought of making videos? If you had to do it all over again would you have gotten a killer attorney to claim that you were very responsible for a lot of Eliminator? Seems to me if you and Billy conceptualized the whole album that you should have gotten millions. And was it Ham that led ZZ Top during those glory years in terms of creativity, making deals, etc.?
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  7. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Linden comments: Well, I was forced to leave the boys as soon as Eliminator came out because I started sueing them for Thug. So as soon as I left, they became superstars because Eliminator sold twenty or thirty times more records than any of their previous records. I didn't get to know them when they turned superstars even though the album I had worked on was the one that made them superstars (Im not taking all the credit, just pointing out reality). My position on planet earth was very strange as I watched Eliminator stay on charts forever, all the first 3 of 4 years I was going through legal battles. Because of the timing I don't know how they felt suddenly turning superstars. Making videos was something Warner Brothers wanted and asked for (that was ZZ Tops fabulous new big boy label). If I had it all to do over again I struggle the same way I did at the time because law suits are mainly for people and companies that have money and experience at lawsuits because it's civil, there's no criminal element. I did the best I could at age 33. I didn't get anything from management because Billy never told the big bossman that I was helping. Billy was telling untruths coming and going in order to make that album happen his way (is that good or bad? It was good for his wallet). When Bill Ham found out what my role was (after the album was released) he told me to get lost (indirectly). Then when he found out I was sueing for a million (it would have been more if we knew how big Eliminator became later) he tried to hire me (a scam to get me to drop the legal action). Ham was ZZ Top at first, he got it going and found Dust and Frank. He was creative as a business man, but he was not really a studio producer in the sense of skill, but he was in title. He had some amateur thoughts about studio production but he had big boy manager skills. A comment about Bill Hams heirs getting fat checks forever: record sales die down drastically as years go by, and they only had two good sellers out of all the albums: Eliminator (20 to 27 million) and Afterburner (5 to 7 million). Those were hot a long time ago, so there's not much coming in as time passes. That's why bands have to stay on the road if they can, to get road show money.
    (To illustrate how big Eliminator was: It sold more albums than ALL their other records COMBINED)
    (Eliminator was their legacy. Thats why they still struggle to keep my name out of credits)
    (I repeat: ZZ Top broke no laws, its a civil matter, but bands get a bad reputation when they don't give credits and compensation to co-writers, word gets around).
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  8. spice9

    spice9 Senior Member

    Location:
    New York, NY
    Incredibly interesting, Linden. Thank you for sharing. I don't think there is any question that if you had better legal counsel way back when you would have collected what you were owed. I've listened to the demos you posted on YouTube. Those would have been key in civil trial. Plus it sounds to me like Billy would have given you proper credit if he was testifying under oath. It was likely easy for him to do what he wanted as a musician and leading the band, but legal matters are different. You got what you were due for Thug. In any case, life goes on and I'm sure when you look past the bad stuff you must be incredibly proud of having helped create such an iconic album. The Wikipedia page on Eliminator explains all about you and how you should have been compensated for creating much of the final product. My all-time favorite ZZ Top song is Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers. My second favorite? I Got the Six! Now whenever I listen to it, which is fairly often, I will think of you.
     
  9. FloydMaui

    FloydMaui good kitty

    Location:
    50th State
    Well, this thread sure has changed topic ! :shh:

    @Linden Odell Hudson , I'm guessing the answer is "no" but I am wondering if you were ever acquainted with Sam Taylor who was at one time VP of ZZ Top's production company and who went on to nurture the band King's X and produce their first four albums. He also produced Galactic Cowboys' first two albums.
     
  10. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Well I know the name, and my friend Steve Ames was recording Kings X, so Sam is in my head, from the past.
     
  11. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Sorry, I didnt mean to hijack the thread, I'm ADHT. Later
     
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  12. Stillin Rockville

    Stillin Rockville living the Flitcraft parable

    Location:
    a farm in Iowa
    no, no, this has been a good hijacking. A good conversation always has the potential to move to new places. Stay with it as long as you please.
     
  13. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    I'll come back (if I see questions). Maybe I'll get on topic, Dusty was my friend. Catch you later.
     
  14. JulesRules

    JulesRules Operational, partially functional

    Location:
    Germany
    There is a "general" ZZ Top thread here, for what it's worth: Let's Talk ZZ Top
    This is the point I don't understand in the story. Your involvement was important to the band's big success. I like Afterburner, and they managed to stay successful with that one, so I guess Billy can consider you replaceable, but if I were a part of the band's circle at that point I would've hung on to you for dear life, as it was clear you had lots of great ideas, and it's not unheard of for bands to have "invisible" members (lyricists like Pete Brown for Cream or Pete Sinfield for King Crimson, engineers like Russel Pope for Supertramp, or - in the case of Status Quo - a roadie, harmonica player and co-writer named Bob Young). Billy screwing you out of credits for what you did on the album seems like he's shooting himself in the foot to me. :confused:
     
  15. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Master Guns

    Location:
    NYC Man
    That's a very unusual situation. I wasn't aware of this with ZZ Top. Did they literally have contracts putting Ham in that position? Otherwise, even if he initially put the band together, I would think that they would have been able to take control since they were the band.
     
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  16. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    To address the last two comment/questions (very briefly). The ZZ Top situation of Bill Ham originally owning the band is actually not unusual, its a "boy band" approach. There can be lots of contractual stuff going on in boy bands (or any business operation). It defines things and establishes order. Also, just because people (Ham, Gibbons) don't act logically, they're human, humans with Egos do not act logically. Im gonna hop outta the thread but I want to stay outta the main ZZ Top thread as I don't want to argue with fans. I respect fans. I don't mind answering logical questions. Im easily found, such as on Flickr, or facebook, etc. Cheers (although Im a Texas not British).
    I like telling about these matters, but it's been decades and now Im 73 yo and I have positive stuff to say too. During my adventure it was like a family, but management was shocked by the presence that they did not approve. Nothing is logical in the human world.
     
  17. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Frank is a fantastic drummer and this whole thing has been misunderstood to some extent. I remember Frank as my buddy, Im sorry his feelings were hurt. I was stuck in the mess with no choice. But, it's 38 years later. He's still employed.

    I didn't help create every song on the album, but I like to believe that on the first 5 or 6 I helped establish some momentum that carried thru to a degree. Or else I wouldve let this fade long ago.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  18. Stillin Rockville

    Stillin Rockville living the Flitcraft parable

    Location:
    a farm in Iowa
    Linden, I was thinking about your story of standing in the room with the guys working out the lyrics to "I Got the Six" and was wondering, when you were all together- even if it didn't happen very often- what kinds of things Dusty and Frank brought to the process. Were there certain things you would expect either of them to want to add or do to a song (for example, I have the idea Dusty would have wanted to make things a little blues-y)?
     
  19. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    I'll be honest with you I didn't start working with them as a group until late in El loco. Then when we started on Eliminator Billy and I were discussing and working on it before the boys ever dropped by. Every few days for awhile they came in a few times and jammed bass and live drum test tracks with already existing tracks that Billy and I did with the drum machine. It was so much a reason to rule Frank and Dusty out of the finished project as it was to be able to invent and write more than usual (we didn't have to piss and moan about it being hard to get them in, we had a digital drummer that sat there at our command all the time. It's more that way. Frank actually seemed to like it that Billy and I weren't pressuring him, we didn't need to. Because hey, we our little teeny works for no pay drum machine sitting there. Whats kind of funny is that Im pretty sure (it was awhile ago) that Billy borrowed that Linn drum machine from a friend who had a music store. Im cheap, but Billy was cheap. We'd take a work break and go eat sometimes and I often got stuck with the check. "Oh man, I forgot my wallet". Then we'd go back to Frank's studio and help him get his frickin Warner Bros album ready (for free). I was the more poor guy in the realm, hey I don't need nothin (not). When Terry Manning said his side of the Eliminator story was Bizarre its because Billy was involved. But Terry was working above ground, I was working underground.
    ++The only song I remember the boys doing lyrics with us on was I got the 6. I enjoyed it, we all 4 stood in a circle and laughingly wrote the dirty lyrics. I remember when we got to the end of the lines we had a final line to write and Dusty said "Its time for me to Spank My Monkey" and we all laughed out loud and the circle broke and we sat and shot the breeze. If the song sounds fun, it's because we were having fun writing the lyrics.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  20. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Yea, and one of my perks of never having signed an NDA is that I can talk about when I feel like it. I'm not going to give that up very easily.

    Led Zep used other peoples junk without care, but the word went out, Jake Holmes talked about it when he felt like it. He didn't give that up very easily (he wrote Dazed and Confused, Led Zep simply took it "oh that must be our song now")

    A Texas band called "The Nightcaps" wrote Thunderbird. ZZ Top just simply used it. The Nightcaps talked about that whenever they liked. They didn't give that up until they all died of old age. Old songwriters can die broke (and have, RIP)

    Kenny Cordray and Steve Perron wrote "Francine". Kenny talked about it whenever he wanted. He didn't give that up until he was deceased (he was my friend, RIP Steve and Kenny)(Francine was ZZs first hit)

    Do what you like, but word gets around.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
  21. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    If you've spent time in radio or record engineering it's not hard to spot digital drums. Even Frank thought they were real when he first heard Eliminator (his problem was it wasnt him on Eliminator), but they were perfect (good for sales evidently). And I wasn't around when the next album (Afterburner) was released but that album was blatant with programmed drums, like they wanted you to know up in your face programmed. I believe they were so happy with the direction of Eliminator that Billy probably said "we're going even more in that direction, (we'll get richer). But it was too fake (Afterburner) although I don't have a problem with that, but many core ZZ fans do. Just learn the way Afterburner sounds and use it as a guide for "Best example of an album made with fake drums". I like all kinds of real or digital sounds, but some folks are not that turned on by it. The cat has been out of the bag for years. Digital drums made ZZ rich. (But hey, lots and lots of famous artists have released records using digital drums).

    Also, we had sequencers, several types of digital drums were out, synthesizers. I made a sequencer in 1981 with a radio shack computer hardwired to a used ARP synthesizer (we didn't even use it for Eliminator pre pro). Heck, I used to play a synth song (Minotaur by Dick Hymen) on my radio show in 1970 (12 years before Eliminator). Synths were old by 1983.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
  22. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Im a thread now (whatever that means) and I want to tell random stories from my memory and answer questions. Just be polite (Im not your enemy, some people are aggressive about music topics). If you're a fan of ZZ Top, I am too because I had a wild experience working and living with them. Things just went south for me and north for them, as the world of rock and roll is a roller coaster.

    Before Billy went on to Memphis to cut final tracks we blazed a few trails, for instance we chose the guitar and amp for Eliminator in Houston before final phases in Memphis. (Terry Manning has verified the Dean and the Legend amp were used in Memphis, Terry did amazing final work on Eliminator).

    Linden speaks: Billy hated that Dean guitar. One day when Billy and myself (Linden) were working on a song in Frank Beard's home studio, Billy broke a string on the Dean and set it down and picked up a custom made yellow guitar (Billy loved that yellow guitar but it sounded thin). I guess he figured he was through with the Dean since it now had a broken string. But that night I put a new string on it, and tuned it, and sat it in Billy's practice chair. When he came in the next day, there was the Dean in his chair. That Dean was like an ugly girlfriend that kept coming back around. "Oh man" he whined comically as he picked it up for another writing session.
    Almost every time Billy arrived at Frank's house to work on the ELIMINATOR album with me (Linden) he would pick up a different guitar hoping I wouldn't notice. Later in the work session he'd ask me "what do you think about THIS guitar?" My answer was always "it doesn't sound as cool as the Dean". Then he'd look pissed and say "aw man, I hate that Dean", then he would pick up the Dean and finish the writing session with it. But, in my opinion, the Dean was nasty sounding, on the edge of feedback constantly, funky, gritty, and sounded a bit crazy, untamed, crude, and wild. However, Billy was tired of that guitar for several reasons. It was a flying V so it didn't sit on his knee worth a damn, it needed constant tuning, and he wanted to move on to other guitars. But, all our pre-production demos (made in Houston) had the Dean sound. ZZ's manager insisted that the final tracking in Memphis sound like our Houston proto-types. So, Billy was stuck with the Dean, at least for recording purposes. In fact, when this pre-production phase was finished and it was time for Billy to go to Memphis to track out the final version of ELIMINATOR, he got a piece of paper and drew a diagram of exactly how the microphone was placed in front of his guitar amp and he wrote down all the settings on the knobs and which mic we used on the guitar amp (as his guitar tech packed the Dean guitar, and legend amp, for the Memphis trip). By the time the ELIMINATOR album hit the market, there were a lot of man hours invested, and just a very few people had been involved.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
  23. etherealdog

    etherealdog Forum Resident

    Great stories, man.
     
  24. agentalbert

    agentalbert Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    Greetings from a fellow Texan, Linden! Fascinating thread. I hope you pop in and tell any stories you remember that might be of interest, and that people don't inundate you with PM's or trying to argue points. This has been a great read.
     
  25. Linden Odell Hudson

    Linden Odell Hudson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    sugar land texas
    Over the years I’ve been bothered by how I felt after ZZ Top’s Eliminator was released and I was “Eliminated” after being valuable to the project. They made up fake stories about how the album was created. I was covered up (and Terry Manning should have received a medal for his work on it). Terry contractually couldn’t spill the beans about things that went on with the album. But I can. And I’ve taken a lot of verbal abuse from all sides for just being around (they wanted me to disappear but Im still here at age 73). I was proud of their first 10 years on the road, their hard work. Still proud. And I knew them and emceed one of their first shows in 1970. But I got Eliminated and it was a big time problem for me. I tried to spread the word about my work back then but that was before the internet and they told their story from the bully pulpit of fame. About a decade ago I got an idea about how to get lots of internet traffic and show my story in bits and pieces. Ive spent decades working with cinematographers and photographers and I acquired a hobby of photography (semi-amateur with hopes of getting better). The next phase was to take special eye candy photos that are tasteful and post 1000 pictures on Flickr and attach my story to every photo and an intro section with more information. I hired a few models for photo sessions, checked and photographed their ID, got a release on each and had some nice photo sessions. Now, some folks will not approve, but a lot approve of my eye candy photos, because they’re tasteful (it’s the year 2021). Here’s the deal, I’ve had that Flickr site for almost 10 years (although it says I joined in 2017, but that is incorrect) and I have 29 MILLION VIEWS. That’s magically similar to Eliminator record sales over time. My story got around. Im written about in at least 5 books (one of them was published by Rolling Stone, another one was written by their stage manager of 15 years). It worked. It was an equalizer. The ZZ boys and management have never admitted to any of my story. So my story is out there because its my mission. But, I don’t claim all the glory, wow, I got no glory or nothing. Some people say bad things about me, but most understand and sympathize with me. There are two stories out there mine and theirs (Terry Manning has one too, he’s bound and obligated however to be nice to his clients ZZ Top and keep quiet about certain truths, Terry got paid too and credited. I love what you do Terry, don’t get me wrong). I don’t need to leave a link to my Flickr site, its easy to find, I don't want to promote my Flickr site here, I don't have to, Ive got 29 million views. But only go there if you can handle eye candy and my story. Although there may be more stuff right here (over time).
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021

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