Herald’s Q&A | ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons

Rock musician Billy Gibbons of the  iconic band ZZ Top talks lingering musical memories, legacies, and the proper hot sauce for a lobster mug-up ahead of their NL rock out

From Gimmie All Your Lovin’ and Sharp Dressed Man to Legs and La Grange, ZZ Top will celebrate 50 years of kickin’ it and keepin’ it real when they take to the stage at the Mary Brown’s Centre on May 13th & 14th. 

Ahead of the maiden voyage on NL soil, vocalist and guitarist Billy Gibbons chats with The Herald.

We’d love to know if there’s anything you are looking forward to and if you will get time between the two show dates to do any touring around our city while you are in St. John’s?

It seems we’re charged large to finally make it. Looking forward to seeing the sights and would be open to checking out the marine life. 

Frank’s (drummer Frank Beard) an intrepid fisherman so you might see him casting off if there’s time. As far as local cuisine is concerned, we’re looking forward to cracking a lobster or two … We’ll bring the Whisker Bomb hot sauce for good measure. 

It’s the 50th anniversary of the band. I’m dying to know if live performances are still providing the high they once did? Is it still a thrill to step on the stage in front of fans and rock out to Sharp Dressed Man?

Oh, yeah! We get a real charge out of it. We get out there, the crowd is up for it, you plug it, turn it up and it’s magic. Works just about every time. 

My daughter is 13. She’s a fan. I’m 52 and I’m a fan. Does the multiple generation appeal thrill the band as they tour? Wondering if, when the band started 50 years ago, you realized the possibility of such mass appeal and longevity. 

We’ve borne witness to the intergenerational phenomenon and it always impresses us. When we first started, the audiences were, for the most part, our same age or maybe a little older. As things progressed, those folks had kids and they brought them along and when those kids grew they came to the show and then they had kids and now they’re out there. Age is kind of irrelevant when your aim is having a good time. 

You lost a friend and a band mate in Dusty Hill, but the band has said the show must go on in his memory. Tell us about his place in your legacy of performances and recordings. 

To us, nobody was as genuine nor as talented as Dusty. 

Making loud noise was what he lived to do and nobody did it better. It’s an understatement that he’s sorely missed, but we carry on in righteous memory of The Dust. 

Your hat is famous. I read the tale about how it was quite the trade. Any other signature pieces that fans should be on the lookout for when you take the stage? 

The hat was acquired on a visit to Cameroon in West Africa, which I like to say is the source of just about everything we like including the blues and soul food. It’s made by the Bamileke people there and was gifted to me by a tribal chieftain. 

He liked my Texas style cowboy hat and I was told it would be wise to gift it to him. I figured we could make it an even trade and he was up for that so he got the 10 gallon and I get the famous Bamleke hat. 

Speaking of Texas duds, there’s a limited edition line of BFG boots out now from Alvies that bear my brand. Get ‘em while you can: alvies.com/pages/bfg-boots-billy-f-gibbons

You’ve worked with some interesting artists. I noted back in 1969 there was a Jimmy Hendrix experience when you were with the Moving Sidewalks. Anything to share from those days?

Off stage (Hendrix) was kind of shy and on stage he was ferocious. He was very friendly and showed us some guitar moves that we still employ to this day. We once got to hang out and jammed together with sponges wrapped around the headstock of our respective guitars. 

We dipped those sponges in day-glow paint and spattered a blank canvas under blacklight as we played. The resulting painting, if you want to call it that, is long gone, but the memory lingers.

When you think of music’s good old days, what decade comes to mind and why? 

Didn’t Carly Simon sing “these are the good old days?” I would think it’s the 40s and 50s, the era when country, Jesus, hillbilly and blues came together. As far as the band is concerned, La Grange broke us out, which was a real kick. 

And on into the 80s with the advent of MTV which brought new twists and turns into the mix. Now that we’re hitting the road again, this just might be the time! 

Anything else you want to share about the show and the tour? Newfoundlanders think our province is fairly cool, but having you b’ys visit will make us so much more so! 

We’re excited to come and visit so get out and see us. It’s gonna be a good time!

For tickets and more visit mbcentre.ca

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