Today in Rock: Billy Gibbons is Born

Friday, December 16: 4 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Billy Gibbons / photo by Antti Salonen

On December 16, 1949, guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was born in Texas. Together with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard, Gibbons launched ZZ Top, as the group shared a passion for such blues masters as 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Freddie King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. From the beginning, they took a hard-rocking power-trio approach to the blues, cultivating a new audience for it in the Seventies and Eighties with superior musicianship as well as attitude, style and some devilishly funny songs. They have written about fast cars, fishnet stockings, sharp clothes, TV dinners, cheap sunglasses and “tush.”

"Rock and roll was certainly considered for so long… the stepchild that didn't have any place to go and yet at the same time it was probably the underlining current carrier that so many people depended on," said Gibbons in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame interview. Gibbons translated his love of basic blues, boogie, rock and all things Texas-related into the no-frills approach to songwriting that guided ZZ Top's earliest albums, and evolved into a sound that also embraced a union of Texas blues and Memphis soul. Tres Hombres’ (1973) key track, “La Grange,” was a growling boogie about the same place celebrated in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Tres Hombres reached Number Eight and became the first in an unbroken string of 11 gold and platinum albums. The next two albums - Fandango! (1975) and Tejas (1977) - hit Number 10 and Number 17, respectively. Fandango! yielded the hard-driving “Tush,” which became ZZ Top’s first Top Forty single. Eliminator, whose title and cover were inspired by Gibbons’ hot-rodded ’34 Ford coupe, became one of the biggest albums of the decade, selling more than 10 million copies. Three of its songs - “Gimme All Your Lovin’” (Number 37), “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” (Number 8) - were radio, video and club hits. With its leggy, model-strewn video, “Legs” remains the biggest single of ZZ Top’s career. And after more than three decades of playing together, Gibbons and company are still at it.

ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the band delivered an electrifying performance that included "La Grange" and "Tush."



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