Slide

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.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

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

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