An Interview with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top

Header image: Guitar World

Image credit: BBC

We recently caught up with ZZ Top founder and renowned six-stringer, Billy Gibbons. The multi-dimensional Gibbons, who also happens to be ZZ Top’s primary vocalist, sat down to discuss the legendary rock act’s forthcoming Raw album and accompanying Raw Whisky Tour, late bassist Dusty Hill, and more.

For more information regarding the album, tour dates, and more, be sure to visit the band’s webpage.

Andrew:
Billy, thanks so much for taking the time. I’d like to start off discussing Raw, an all-new live album set for release on July 22, which will coincide with the upcoming Raw Whisky Tour to celebrate the band’s remarkable fifty-year history. What were the origins for this particular album?

Billy:
The producers of That Little Ol’ Band From Texas, the ZZ Top documentary, thought it would be a good idea to have a free-standing performance interlude in the film to bring viewers up to date in a unique way.  The film covers our history so this would be a way to underscore that we’ve soldiering on in no uncertain terms. Gruene Hall, the venue, is part of Texas history as, I suppose, are we.  It was an opportunity to get a pristine recording in the can and so we did. 

Andrew:
I’ve seen you describe Raw as a return to the band’s roots. Are you able to expand on that? What was the blueprint for the album?

Billy:
The three of us playing together in the same place, at the same time, with a minimum of post-production tweaking. These days, it’s unusual to record when you’re actually looking at the people with whom you’re recording, but Raw is just that. 

Andrew:
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the late Dusty Hill. Is there a memory or story about Dusty that stands out?

Billy:
The day we spontaneously wrote “Tush” in 1973. We were doing a soundcheck at a dirt floor area in Florence, Alabama, and we were just messing around when the riff presented itself, and Dusty jumped in and began to sing an improvised lyric. Within the span of ten minutes, we had a hit on our hands.

Image credit: Guitar Player

Andrew:
Longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis will again be assuming bass duties for the upcoming tour. What made him a logical fit, and what does he bring to the lineup?

Billy:
He’s been part of our musical family for almost thirty years and knows how it’s done. When Dusty fell ill, he indicated the show must go on and thought Elwood would be able to handle filling-in in light of the fact that he’s a very accomplished musician in his own right. Dusty was, of course, correct. 

Andrew:
Before ZZ Top, you were in a band called the Moving Sidewalks, where you famously opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience during their first American tour as a headlining act. What can you recall from those shows, and as a young musician, what were you able to learn from Jimi?

Billy:
Jimi was kind of a shy guy off stage but a wild man when he was on it.  He was a really kind guy and enjoyed comparing notes – pun intended – and offering pointers. We kept in touch until his tragic passing, and I pay homage to him just about every night. 

Andrew:
As we reflect on fifty years of ZZ Top, I’d like to rewind back to the band’s formative years. How did the band come together? Frank [Beard] and Dusty didn’t join until later, so how did they ultimately enter the picture?

Billy:
We recruited Frank and knew that he had what it took to keep us on time, so to speak. We needed a bass man, and he suggested Dusty, who had been his bandmate in the American Blues. Dusty came over and, in lieu of a audition, we just jammed on a blues shuffle in C. Several hours of that ensued, and we knew we had the “keeper” version of the band.

Image credit: Brian Marks

Andrew:
What is your recollection of the songwriting sessions that fueled the band’s most commercially successful release, Eliminator

Billy:
Some of the songs come from personal experience, “Legs” is an example of that. We saw a young woman, who was getting soaked by a thunderstorm and decided to double back to offer her a ride, but by the time we got to where she had been, she was gone. She had legs and knew how to use them. Our approach is to come up with riffs and lyrics we like and try them out. If we still like them, they get recorded and, obviously, with the songs on that album, we weren’t the only ones who liked them. 

Andrew:
Thanks again for carving out some time, Billy. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Last question. Where was Eliminator recorded, and what do you remember from those studio sessions?

Billy:
Eliminator was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis with Terry Manning engineering. It’s where we encountered the synth world in a significant way, and opened the door for some experimentation that is still ongoing.

Image credit: Rock Celebrities

Interested in learning more about Billy Gibbons & ZZ Top? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
Happy
Happy
100 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: