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Billy Gibbons | ZZ TOP

By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Photos by Blain Clausen

It’s been over fifty-one years since ZZ Top released their debut album in 1971, ZZ Top’s first Album. Fifteen albums later with a world-wide sales record of around fifty million, while keeping the same band line-up, they are still going strong! Now, Lead Singer/Guitarist Billy Gibbons, Drummer Frank Beard and Bassist Elwood Francis (who stepped into his role to honor Dusty Hill upon his passing in 2021), are taking their incredible, extraordinary talents on tour, and South Florida fans will have the opportunity to experience this amazing bluesish, rock show on July 21st at the iThink Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, and on July 22nd at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa.

These legends have surrounded themselves with legends and they continue to do so, co-headlining with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Gibbons however, took the time during his solo European tour to answer some questions I sent regarding The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour, his music, the band, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music:  What can fans look forward to with The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour?

Billy Gibbons: Our role in the tour is to make a lot of noise and give the audience everything they came for: classic stuff plus a sprinkling of obscurities to keep everybody on their collective toes.  In short: a good time.

SFL Music:  How did the collaboration with Lynyrd Skynyrd to co-headline come about?

Gibbons: We’ve been friends with the Skynyrd folks for decades and have shared bills with them both in the distant and recent past.  The thinking here was to give concert goers a heavy dose of rock therapy.  We’ve done it before and we’re gonna do it again!

SFL Music:  What influenced you to become a musician?

Gibbons: When I was a little boy — in short pants — my dad took me to a B.B. King recording session in my native Houston.  I loved everything about that, and his big shiny electric guitar was a source of ceaseless fascination… you may call it obsession.  I knew right then what I wanted — make that needed to do and then, just a few years later, I got to doing it.

SFL Music:   ZZ Top started in 1971, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, had a historical longest running unchanged band line-up. What would you say is the secret to your success and longevity?

Gibbons: We like what we’re doing and we like doing it with the same, basic team.  Lots of bands go on for a decade or two and then, inevitably, break up only to come back together. So, if you’ll like to think of the last 25 or 30 years as a reunion, go right ahead.. we just never got around to breaking up.

SFL Music:   You were introduced to the Octavio Fuzz by Jimi Hendrix in 1968. What would you say about how that experience led to the way you write and play your music, and what would you recommend to a new musician?

Gibbons: Let the record show that you said “Jimi Hendrix” and “experience”: in two successive sentences! I like!  Hendrix was something of a mentor to me and I have an abiding appreciation of both his musical ability and his being as kind as he was. I’ll just say what he said, “Play what you want to hear.”  I guess the inner message is, if you can’t please yourself, you’re going to have a difficult time pleasing others. So, just get on with it.

SFL Music:   You guys support charities like Childline and St. Jude Children’s Research. How did this all come about?

Gibbons: We just love kids and do what we can to help them.  I guess because we spent so much time in Memphis where we recorded so many of our albums, we got to know the St. Jude’s organization and have an abiding respect for what they’ve done and what they’re doing.

SFL Music:   You have a limited-edition LP ZZ TOP RAW “THAT LITTLE OL’ BAND FROM TEXAS” released in 2022, as well as an ELIMINATOR bundle. What prompted the release of those amazing albums in those forms?

Gibbons: RAW was an unintentional album.  Sam Dunn, the director the documentary “That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” had in mind to shoot some stills for promo at historic Gruene Hall down in the Texas hill country.  When we got there, we saw that our road crew had populated the setting with our touring gear, so we just kind of did what comes naturally.  Tapes rolled and an album resulted.  As far as Eliminator is concerned, it sold over 10 million copies in this country alone the first time out, so we figured to let it loose again as quite a few people have come along since back then.  We just wanted to give ‘em a shot at getting into it.

SFL Music:   Being the recipients of three MTV Video Music Awards, are there any new videos fans may look forward to seeing, or anything else new?

Gibbons: We did quite a few for the last BFG (solo) album and we’re thinking that what Sam shot of the inadvertent RAW session kind of counts as a video.  We’re definitely keeping the visual component in mind as we go forward.

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