by Adam Gold
If you managed to catch last night’s CMT Awards 2014 broadcast, you already know that the curveball-laden, genre-clashing, choreography-rife conflation of red-dirt rockers ZZ Top, bro-y hickin’ hoppin’ trio Florida Georgia Line + Luke Bryan and R&B trap-rapper Jason Derulo that opened the show was really … something. Attacks on the greater aesthetic tenets of all music aside, one thing I noticed while watching ZZ Top’s truncated take on “La Grange” was that the legendary blues rock trio’s longtime drummer Frank Beard (the one without a beard) was conspicuously absent.
Filling in was famed sideman and session vet Kenny Aronoff, who’s best known for his work with John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, Melissa Etheridge, Smashing Pumpkins and many others. He gave the world this killer drum break.*
So what’s the deal? Did ZZ Top sack Frank Beard? Did he leave the band? Was he sidelined by illness or something? Did he take one whiff of Florida Georgia Line’s pomade and say, “You know what, FUCK THIS”? Did The Little Ol’ Band from Texas just get a little smaller for good? A bit of Web sleuthing hasn’t yielded any answers, but the band’s publicist Bob Merlis tells the Cream he “think[s] it was just a one-off for last night” and is working to confirm said circumstances. We’ll keep you posted.
Update: Merlis was able to confirm that the CMT Awards appearance was in fact a one-off, as Beard had "personal/family obligations" and was unable to make the gig. Merlis assures us that "ZZ Top is still the same three guys (and the same three chords) as always. They're all off to Europe, as this is written, for a month of concerts and festival appearances there. Including Frank."
* The drummer filling in for ZZ Top was not Kenny Aronoff, as we stated, but rather Florida Georgia Line drummer and Aronoff doppelganger Sean Fuller. We apologize for the error.