Billy Gibbons (born December 16, 1949) is an
American musician, actor and car customizer, best known as the guitarist
of the Texas 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 Billy Bo guitar and his famous 1959
Gibson Les Paul guitar known as Pearly
Gates. Gibbons has a Bass vocal range, spanning E1 to E5, one of the
widest ranges in Rock. He is noted for using a Mexican peso coin as a
guitar pick 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 in the NightBird
Recording Studio with actors Billy Bob Thornton and J.P. Shellnutt,
along with musicians Jeff Beck,
Jimmy Page, Jed Leiber, Joe "Backbeat"
Fazzio, and Dwight Yoakam. Gibbons is also well known for his authentic
preparations of Mexican and barbecue cuisine and is frequently a guest
chef around Hollywood, California serving his famous "Renegade
Early life Gibbons was born to Freddie Frederick Royal and Lorraine
Gibbons in the Tanglewood suburb of Houston, Texas, with his father
being an entertainer, orchestra leader, and concert pianist who worked
alongside second cousin, art director, Cedric Gibbons, for Samuel
Goldwyn at MGM Studios. In 1963, Gibbons received his first electric
guitar following his thirteenth birthday, a sunburst Gibson Melody
Maker, accompanied with a Fender Champ amplifier. While attending Warner
Brothers' art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons engaged with his
first bands including The Saints, Billy G & the Blueflames, and The
Coachmen. By 18, Gibbons went forward forming an artfully designed band
, conceptually inspired by friend and fellow musician, Roky Erickson and
The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, naming the group the "Moving Sidewalks",
penning the hit single, "99th Floor" and engaging a friendship with the
legendary, Jimi Hendrix and The Jimi
Hendrix Experience. Hendrix went on to say on the Tonight Show that
Gibbons would be the next hottest guitarist.
Moving Sidewalks Gibbons founded the Texas psychedelic group The Moving
Sidewalks, 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.
Gibbons formed ZZ Top in late 1969, which then quickly settled on
bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank "Rube" 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
took 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. With the
exception of a short uniform beard in the 1990s, drummer Frank "Rube"
Beard attempts keeping a somewhat blank face, with the occasional
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
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
40-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 on 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
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
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. Conlin's character's
middle name is the same as Gibbons's Les Paul guitar. Gibbons's
character is extremely protective of his daughter, and he often
"threatens" or "haunts" Jack Hodgins, now her husband, that if he hurts
Angela, he will pay. He has appeared in several episodes, including one
where he asks Hodgins to help him recover his car, the ZZTop Eliminator,
from some "biker hoods".
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 12,
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.