Artist and ZZ Top Stage Designer
By Chris Gray
Nov. 19 2009
Bill Narum, a key figure in Houston's counterculture in the late
1960s and early '70s, passed away Wednesday night at his home in
Austin. The cause of death was an "apparent heart attack or something
that took him quickly while sitting in his studio at the art table in
his chair," said Narum's close friend Margaret Moser, who profiled
him for the Austin Chronicle in 2005.
Austin native Narum, who was in his early 60s, grew up in Houston and
discovered his talent for graphic design early on. "In the fifth
grade, I'd been drawing girlie cartoons from Playboy in a notebook,
and I left it in my desk after class," he told the Chronicle. "The
next day I was reprimanded for disrupting class because they were
passing around my notebook."
In the late '60s, Narum co-founded Houston free-form FM rock station
KLOL and worked as an illustrator for underground newspaper Space
City News. He struck up a long-lasting friendship with a band then
just starting out, which had recently rechristened itself ZZ Top.
Narum would go on to become ZZ's house graphic artist, moving from
posters and album covers such as 1976's Tejas to epic murals for the
band's fleet of semis and the famous cactus-and-cattle-skull stage
design for the trio's legendary 1975-76 "Worldwide Texas" tour.
After moving back to his hometown in the '70s, Narum continued
designing posters for venues such as Antone's and Armadillo World
Headquarters, and explored a budding interest in both video and
computer-game design. In 2005, he was elected president of the board
of directors of Austin folk-art storehouse the South Austin Museum of
Popular Culture around the same time his 40-year retrospective, "You
Call That Art," opened at the museum.
Speaking of Narum's many achievements, SAMOPC director Leea Mechling
told the Austin Chronicle: "He's a major contributor to the cultural
dynamics of not only Austin, but Texas, the United States, and the world."