Friday July 30, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Around the World Automobile Race
On this Day:
In 1908, the Around the World Automobile Race ended in Paris.
The 1908 New York to Paris Race was an automobile competition consisting of drivers attempting to travel from New York to Paris. This was a considerable challenge given the state of automobile technology and road infrastructure at the time. Only three of six contestants completed the course. The winner was the American team, driving a 1907 Thomas Flyer.
In 1907 the Peking to Paris automobile race had inspired an even bolder test of these new machines. The following year the course would be from New York City, USA, to Paris, France, with a planned 150-mile (240 km) ship passage from Nome, Alaska, across the Bering Strait to East Cape, Siberia.
The 1908 New York to Paris Race
The race commenced in Times Square on February 12, 1908. Six cars representing four nations were at the starting line for what would become a 169-day ordeal (making it, in terms of time taken, still the longest motorsport event ever held). Germany, France, Italy, and the United States participated, with the Protos representing Germany, a Zust representing Italy, three cars (De Dion-Bouton, Motobloc, and Sizaire-Naudin) representing France, and a Thomas Flyer representing the United States. At 11:15 AM a gunshot signaled the start of the race. Ahead of the competitors were very few paved roads, and in many parts of the world no roads at all. Often, the teams resorted to straddling locomotive rails with their cars riding tie to tie on balloon tires for hundreds of miles when no roads could be found.
The American Thomas Flyer was in the lead after crossing the United States and arriving in San Francisco in 41 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes. It was the first crossing of the US by an automobile in winter.
The route then took them to Valdez, Alaska, by ship. Then, the Thomas crew found impossible conditions in Alaska and the race was rerouted across the Pacific by steamer to Japan where the Americans made their way across to the Sea of Japan. Then it was on to Vladivostok, Siberia, by ship to begin crossing the continents of Asia and Europe. Only three of the competitors made it past Vladivostok: the Protos, the Züst, and the Flyer.
The wet plains of Siberia and Manchuria during the spring thaw made progress difficult. At several points, forward movement was often measured in feet rather than miles per hour. Eventually, the roads improved as Europe approached and the Thomas arrived in Paris on July 30, 1908, to win, having covered approx 16,700 km. The Germans, driven by Hans Koeppen, arrived in Paris four days earlier, but had been penalized a total of 30 days for not going to Japan and for shipping the Protos part of the way by railcar. That gave the win to the Americans with George Schuster (the only American to go the full distance from New York to Paris) by 26 days (still the largest winning margin in any motorsport event ever). The Italians arrived later in September 1908.
The race was of international interest with daily front page coverage by The New York Times (a cosponsor of the race with the Parisian newspaper Le Matin). The significance of the event extended far beyond the race itself. Together with the Peking to Paris race which took place the year before it established the reliability of the automobile as a dependable means of transportation, eventually taking the automobile from an amusement of the rich to a reliable and viable means of long distance transportation for the masses. It also led to the call for improved roads to be constructed in many parts of the world.
The winning driver George Schuster was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010.
The winning Thomas Flyer is on display in Reno, Nevada, at the National Automobile Museum, alongside the trophy (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Did you know that Honda is the oldest car manufacturer in the world? In fact, this is mentioned in the bible!
“And the apostles were all in Accord”
Second, a Song:
ZZ Top is an American rock band formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas by vocalist and guitarist Billy Gibbons. After its formation, the band had undergone a few member changes before settling on its most consistent lineup for more than five decades, with the addition of Frank Beard (drums) and Dusty Hill (bass) in 1969 and 1970 respectively. Initially rooted in blues, the band’s style has evolved throughout their career, with a signature sound based on Gibbons’ blues guitar style and the rhythm section of Hill and Beard. Their lyrics, often embellished with sexual innuendo, focus on their Texas roots and sense of humor. Popular for their live performances and the identical physical appearances of Gibbons and Hill—who are rarely seen without their long beards, sunglasses, and Stetson hats—the group has staged several elaborate tours.
ZZ Top formed after the demise of Moving Sidewalks, Gibbons’ previous band. Within a year, they signed with London Records and released ZZ Top’s First Album (1971). Subsequent releases, such as their first top-ten albums Tres Hombres (1973) and Fandango! (1975), and its respective singles “La Grange” and “Tush”, gained extensive radio airplay. By the mid-1970s, they had become renowned in North America for their live act, highlighted by their performances during the Worldwide Texas Tour from 1976 to 1977, which was a critical and commercial success.
Following a two-year break in response to creative stagnation and exhaustion, ZZ Top reinvented themselves in the late 1970s with a new musical direction and their now-famous public image. Beginning with their albums Degüello (1979) and El Loco (1981), they experimented with instruments including clavinets, saxophones, and synthesizers. They established a more mainstream sound and gained international favor with the records Eliminator (1983) and Afterburner (1985), which integrated influences from new wave, punk, and dance-rock. The popularity of their music videos, including those for “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Legs”, helped propel them onto the television channel MTV and made them one of the more prominent artists in 1980s pop culture. Their Afterburner Tour set records for the highest-attended and highest-grossing concert tour of 1986. After additional acclaim with the release of their 10th album Recycler (1990) and its accompanying tour, their experimentation continued with mixed successes on the albums Antenna (1994), Rhythmeen (1996), XXX (1999), and Mescalero (2003). The group most recently released La Futura (2012) and Goin’ 50 (2019), the latter of which is a compilation album commemorating the band’s 50th anniversary. Hill died on July 28, 2021 at the age of 72.
ZZ Top has released 15 studio albums and sold an estimated 50 million albums worldwide. They have won three MTV Video Music Awards, and in 2004, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone ranked Gibbons number 32 on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have supported several campaigns and charities, including Childline, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and a fundraiser for the Delta Blues Museum (per Wikipedia).
Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill (May 19, 1949 – July 28, 2021) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter, best known as the bassist and secondary lead vocalist of the American rock group ZZ Top; he also played keyboards with the band. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of ZZ Top, in 2004.
Hill was born in Dallas, Texas. He and his brother Rocky Hill (also a musician) were raised in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Dallas. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School (Dallas) where he played the cello.
Hill, his brother, and future fellow ZZ Top member Frank Beard played in local Dallas bands the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues. From 1966 to 1968, American Blues played the Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston circuit. In 1969, Hill was a member of a fake version of the British band The Zombies with Beard.
In 1968, the band decided to leave the Dallas–Fort Worth area and relocate to Houston. At this time, however, Rocky Hill wanted to focus on “straight blues”, while Dusty wanted the band to rock more. Rocky left the band and Dusty and Beard moved to Houston, joining guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons of Houston psychedelic-rockers Moving Sidewalks in the recently formed ZZ Top just after they released their first single in 1969. Hill played bass and keyboards in the band and was secondary lead vocalist.
Hill’s on-screen appearances include Back to the Future Part III, Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme, WWE Raw and Deadwood, and as himself in the 11th-season episode of King of the Hill, “Hank Gets Dusted”, in which Hank Hill is said to be Dusty’s cousin. He also made an appearance on The Drew Carey Show as himself auditioning for a spot in Drew’s band, but was rejected because of his attachment to his trademark beard which he refers to as a ‘Texas Goatee’.
In 2000 he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and as a result, ZZ Top canceled their European tour. Hill resumed work in 2002.
Hill was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of ZZ Top, in 2004 (per Wikipedia).
While I was writing this Smile, news reached me of Dusty Hill’s passing on July 28, 2021, Hill died in his sleep at his home in Houston, Texas, aged 72. His death was announced by his ZZ Top bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard. Dusty is the primary singer in this ZZ Top song, “She Don’t Love Me, She Loves my Automobile”. Here’s to Dusty. I hope you enjoy this.
Thought for the Day:
“There is no doubt about precisely when folks began racing each other in automobiles. It was the day they built the second automobile.” – Richard Petty
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky