It was a rather inauspicious beginning, this Feb. 10, 1970, concert at a Knights of Columbus Hall outside of Houston.

Billy Gibbons had just added the final pieces – Dusty Hill and Frank Beard – to what would become ZZ Top's long-running current lineup when Al Caldwell, a radio personality at KLVI in Beaumont, booked their first gig together. "There was one person in the audience," Billy Gibbons has joked, "so we bought him a Coke and finished the rest of the show."

A series of similarly forgettable shows followed while ZZ Top, started by Gibbons in late 1969, coalesced around Beard and Hill. They were a long way from fuzzy-guitar-spinning stardom, as illustrated by a period photo (see above) taken during a May 1970 appearance at the Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School prom. The group is identified as "Zee Zee Top," something Gibbons chalked up to a "yearbook club error" after it made the rounds on the internet a couple of years ago. "There’s not a day that goes by where somebody doesn’t say, ‘Hey, I saw this funny picture of you guys. When was that?" Gibbons told Texas Monthly.

Back in 1970, the only one sporting a beard was Hill, and it was a fraction of the iconic modern-day length he now sports, alongside Gibbons. As their facial hair grew, so did ZZ Top's legend. But it took a while. ZZ Top's First Album followed in 1971, and sank like a rock, and 1972's Rio Grande Mud didn't fare much better. It was 1973 before Tres Hombres finally hurtled ZZ Top into the U.S. Top 10.

And it all started at a tucked-away spot, in front of a largely empty room on old U.S. 90 in Beaumont, Texas. "I had to borrow a bass for that gig. I didn't actually own one," Hill told the Houston Chronicle. "It was the Knights of Columbus Hall and though I didn't meet any knights or royalty, there were a lot of cool people who came out to hear us play. And so it began."

ZZ Top Albums Ranked 

You Think You Know ZZ Top?

More From The Basin's Classic Rock