Harrison Marsh concludes his series on slide guitar with a look at the bottleneck style of ZZ Top’s one and only Billy F Gibbons.
Harrison Marsh takes a trip down to Texas to examine the sleazy slide style of Billy F Gibbons.
One of the world’s most iconic guitar players, Billy F Gibbons formed ZZ Top with band mates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard in 1969. Born into a musical family in Texas, Gibbons picked up the guitar at age 11. While ZZ Top released their debut album in 1971, Gibbons had already supported Hendrix with his short-lived outfit Moving Sidewalks. The first two ZZ Top albums were well received but it was third release Tres Hombres, featuring La Grange which saw them hit the top 10 in America for the first time and sparked extensive touring. What followed was a career that featured 15 studio albums (sa far!), four of which are mutli-platinum selling; an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a solid reputation as great showmen.
Although at times lyrically light-hearted and known for their distinctive look, ZZ Top has a plethora of blues rock songs that are instantly recognisable, with Gibbons’ iconic guitar style and deep knowledge of Texas based blues a mainstay of the group.
Famous for using Pearly Gates, his original 1959 Les Paul, Billy brings out an enviable roster of classic guitars live. The majority of Gibbons’ playing is set securely in the blues with heavy use of Pentatonic and Blues scales and interspersing these impressive soloing skills with great rhythm hooks. Surprisingly, a big part of the Gibbons sound is his extra light .007 gauge strings.
Although an all-round, well-versed blues guitarist with an enviable riff and soloing capacity, slide guitar has always been part of Billy’s toolkit and features on some of ZZ Top’s biggest hits including Just Got Paid, Sharp Dressed Man and Tush. Gibbons seems equally happy in standard and open tunings. Interestingly, he also applies a Bonnie Raitt style approach using the (usually glass) slide on his second finger, allowing him to alternate between slide and riffs played with first and third digits. Although not as technically demanding as some slide players there is a lot of fun to be had for any slide enthusiast playing in Gibbons’ style.
NEXT MONTH We begin a new RGT/LCM series all about the guitar in psychedelic bands
slide has always been part of Billy’s toolkit and features on some of zz top’s biggest hits including sharp dressed man and just got paid
Billy Gibbons using a Coricidin style bottle on his second finger