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Billy Gibbons

Billy Gibbons performing live in 2008
Background information
Birth name William Frederick Gibbons
Also known as Billy Gibbons
Born December 16, 1949 (1949-12-16) (age 60)
Tanglewood, Houston, Texas, United States of America
Genres Blues, electric blues, blues-rock, Texas blues, rock, Southern rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter, actor
Instruments Guitar, singing, harmonica, Electric piano
Years active 1967-present
Associated acts ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Moving Sidewalks, Brooks & Dunn
Website Official ZZ Top Website
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul, Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird, Cigar box guitar, Dean Z, Fender Esquire, Gibson Moderne

William "Billy" Frederick Gibbons (born 16 December 1949) is an American musician, actor and car customizer, best known as the guitarist of blues-rock band ZZ Top. He is also the lead singer and composer for many of the band's songs. Gibbons is known for playing his Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird guitar and his 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar known as Pearly Gates. He is noted for using a Mexican Peso coin as a guitar plectrum and uses many pinch harmonics in his solos. A cornerstone in Hollywood, Gibbons remains a familiar fixture at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, producing studio sessions with actors Billy Bob Thornton and J.P. Shellnutt, along with musicians Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jed Leiber, and Dwight Yoakam.


Early life

Gibbons was born to Fred and Lorraine Gibbons in the Tanglewood suburb of Houston, Texas, with his father being a bandleader who worked for Samuel Goldwyn at MGM Studios. In 1963, he received his first electric guitar when he was thirteen years old, which was a sunburst Gibson Melody Maker, and was also given a Fender Champ amplifier. In high school, Gibbons played in his first bands including The Saints, Billy G & the Blueflames, and The Coachmen. By age 18, he went on to form a band of his own named the "Moving Sidewalks".[1]

Early career


Moving Sidewalks

Gibbons founded the Texas psychedelic group The Moving Sidewalks,[2] which recorded several singles and one full-length album, "Flash." Gibbons and The Moving Sidewalks came to prominence opening for The Jimi Hendrix Experience during Hendrix's first American tour. Also notable was the Gibbons-penned song, "99th Floor," its title a nod to the influence on Gibbons of fellow Texans and pioneering psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators.

ZZ Top

Gibbons formed ZZ Top in late 1969, which then quickly settled on bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard, both being members of the band American Blues. After honing their trademark blues-rock style, they released the aptly titled ZZ Top's First Album on London Records in 1971.

The band rolled on, intensively touring and recording/releasing albums until 1977, when they took an extended hiatus. Their long-time manager and producer Bill Ham used this time to negotiate a deal that allowed the band to keep control of their previous recordings, to be distributed by their new label, Warner Bros. Records. They reunited two-and-a-half years later in order to start recording under a new Warner Bros. contract. Unknown to each other at the time, both Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons had grown the chest-length beards that quickly became a part of their image. Despite a short uniform beard in the 1990s, drummer Frank Beard always kept a clean face, with an occasional goatee.

The band hit international prominence and their commercial peak with the release of 1983's diamond-selling disc Eliminator. Eliminator was named after Gibbons' customized 1933 Ford Coupe, which was featured in three of the band's music videos. The album featured the hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'", "Sharp Dressed Man", and "TV Dinners", and "Legs".

In 1994, the band signed a multi-million dollar, five-disc deal with RCA Records.

In 2003, a comprehensive collection of recordings from the London and Warner Bros. years entitled Chrome, Smoke & BBQ was released. In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have the distinction of being among a very small group of bands with a 30-year-plus history that still has all of its original members. As of 2006, it is reported that ZZ Top is recording their 15th studio album.

Other appearances

Gibbons played the first slide guitar lead on the song "Dead End Streets" on Al Jourgensen of Ministry's side project Revolting Cocks album Cocked and Loaded. He also wrote, played guitar, and sang the song "Willin' For Satisfaction" from Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell's 2005 solo album Two Sides Of If.

Gibbons collaborated with the Queens of the Stone Age on the song "Burn the Witch" from the album Lullabies to Paralyze. ZZ Top's "Precious and Grace" was also recorded with lead vocals provided by Mark Lanegan as a bonus track for the album. Gibbons has also claimed this was one of his favorite collaborations and "Precious and Grace" was later added back into ZZ Top's set lists. Gibbons was also selected to guest the follow-up album Era Vulgaris but was unable to due to scheduling conflicts.[3]

Together with The Raconteurs Gibbons performed at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Gibbons was part of an ensemble chosen to play with the band, which included Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch. The performance was heavily edited and cut short by MTV for broadcast. However, the full unedited performance is available on MTV's Website for the VMAs. Although not a full-length performance, Gibbons can also be heard playing a few bars of the ZZ Top classic "La Grange."

Gibbons was one of several artists to participate together with BB King on the song "Tired Of Your Jive," from the B.B. King & Friends album. Gibbons also appeared on Nickelback's album All the Right Reasons on the songs "Follow You Home," "Fight for All the Wrong Reasons" and "Rockstar."

Gibbons performed with country legend Hank Williams's grandson Hank Williams III on the song "Trashville," from his album Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'.

Gibbons also collaborated with the original designer of his favorite guitar "Miss Pearly Gates" Lester William Polsfuss aka Les Paul with his Les Paul & Friends American Made, World Played track "Bad Case of Loving You." Gibbons also performed guitar with John Mayall & Friends' track "Put It Right Back" from the album Along for the Ride.

Gibbons was also a guest vocalist on Kid Rock's "Hillbilly Stomp" from the album Kid Rock.

Gibbons was also the guitarist during singer Luis Fonsi's presentation at the 7th Latin Grammy awards held in Madison Square Garden, New York, on November 2, 2006. Lately Gibbons also sang background vocals on former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar's 2008 CD Cosmic Universal Fashion during the song "Switch on the Light."

Gibbons collaborated with Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks & Dunn fame, for Ronnie's first solo work, playing guitar and singing along on the song, "Honky Tonk Stomp".

He played guitar on "Broke Down On the Brazos", the opening track of Gov't Mule's 2009 album By a Thread.

Gibbons played guitar on "Run Rudolph Run", the third track of We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year compilation.

Gibbons has a recurring role, on the Fox network TV series Bones. He plays a fictionalized version of himself, as the father of Michaela Conlin's character Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro. Note Conlin's character's middle name is the same as Gibbons' trademark Les Paul guitar.

Gibbons joined Jeff Beck onstage at the 2009 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert with a version of Hendrix "Foxy Lady".

Gibbons made a special guest appearance behind Roky Erickson on Austin City Limits taped on November 12, 2007 and originally aired January 12th, 2008. (ACL Season 33, Episode 12)

On January 22, 2010, Gibbons joined Ben Harper, Beck, Conan O'Brien, and others on the final episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien playing a Will Ferrell-led rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird. [4]

Billy Gibbons' current rig

In his amp rack, Billy runs two Marshall JMP-1 preamps with two Marshall Valvestate 120/120 power amps, which run into three-custom built 4x12" cabinets and a Demeter isolation cabinet. Both Billy and bassist Dusty Hill play through the same type of cabinets and their setups are crosswired on stage so that they each have one cabinet on the other side of the stage. This allows them to monitor each other and to hear themselves when standing anywhere on stage.

The Demeter isolation cabinet is miked with an Audio Technica AT4047 solid-state microphone and an AT4060 microphone. Those signals are sent direct to the Front of House and added into the mix.

At the 2010 Winter NAMM show, Dunlop and Gibbons unveiled a new line of guitar accessories, Rev. Willy's. These include Gibbons inspired picks, strings, and slides.


The Moving Sidewalks

ZZ Top

Guest singles

Year Single Artist Chart positions Album
US Country US CAN Country
2009 "Honky Tonk Stomp" Brooks & Dunn 16 96 8 #1s… and Then Some


  1. ^ KLRU | Texas Monthly Talks
  2. ^ Chest, Lance (2005-06-09). "ZZ Top Is Zee Tops! (Why ZZ Top is the World's Greatest Band!)". Portland Mercury. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (2007-04-13). "Reznor Guest Spot Adds Mystery To QOTSA Album". News > Articles. Billboard. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  4. ^

External links


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