Personalities | Billy Gibbons | ZZ Top’s Talent | Guitar Heroes

Billy F. Gibbons (b. 1949), also known as the Reverend Willie G, led his Texas boogie band, ZZ Top, to international superstardom in the early days of MTV, combining a unique image with driving Southern rock and a series of eye-catching videos.

At the music’s core was Gibbons’ tasteful blend of rhythmic crunch and fiery soloing, created on his 1959 Gibson Les Paul, named ‘Miss Pearly Gates’.

Gibbons grew up in Houston, Texas. In the 1960s, he formed the psychedelic group The Moving Sidewalks, which recorded Flash (1968), and opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience during the Texas leg of Hendrix’s first American tour. He formed ZZ Top in 1969 with bassist-vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. They released ZZ Top’s First Album on London Records in 1971. The follow-ups Rio Grande Mud (1972) and Tres Hombres (1973), with its driving paean to a Texas bordello ‘La Grange’, combined with extensive touring, cemented the band’s reputation as a hard-rocking power trio.

It was in the 1980s, however, that ZZ Top really exploded. The band changed record labels, and Gibbons and Hill, during a hiatus from recording, each grew chest-length beards, unbeknownst to each other. The band also updated its sound, incorporating synthesizers into the music. The results were their three biggest albums, Eliminator (1983), Afterburner (1985) and Recycler (1990). A series of videos for the hit singles ‘Legs’, ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’, and ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, among others, became staples of the young music video channel MTV.

Although ZZ Top lost some of their early fans with their more radio-friendly sound and missteps like the effects-laden remixed box set Six Pack (1987), the band’s unique blend of boogie and funny, sometimes raunchy lyrics, anchored by Gibbons’ blues-based virtuosity, continued to draw fans. In 2004, ZZ Top were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

In recent years, Gibbons has made appearances with other bands and acted on television shows. ZZ Top played at the 2007 Orange Bowl game in Miami. The Eliminator Collector’s Edition CD/DVD, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the album was released in 2008 and a new album, La Futura, in 2012. Gibbons also continues to perform and guest on the albums of various artists.

Essential Recordings

ZZ Top: Tres Hombres

ZZ Top: Eliminator

ZZ Top: Afterburner

ZZ Top: Recycler

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