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William Frederick "Billy" Gibbons (born December 16, 1949) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, producer and actor, best known as the guitarist of the American rock band ZZ Top. He began his career in the Moving Sidewalks, who recorded Flash (1968) and opened four dates for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Gibbons formed ZZ Top in late 1969 and released ZZ Top's First Album in 1971. The albums that followed, Rio Grande Mud (1972) and Tres Hombres (1973), along with extensive touring, solidified the group's reputation as a hard-rocking power trio. In the 1980s, ZZ Top released their three biggest-selling albums: Eliminator (1983), Afterburner (1985) and Recycler (1990). A wave of music videos for the hit singles "Legs", "Gimme All Your Lovin'", and "Sharp Dressed Man", among others, became mainstays on MTV. Gibbons has made appearances with other artists and acted on television shows, most notably Bones. He was ranked at number 32 on the 2011 Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Gibbons was born to Frederick Royal ("Freddie") and Lorraine (née Duffy) Gibbons in the Tanglewood suburb of Houston, Texas. His father was an entertainer, orchestra conductor, and concert pianist who worked alongside second cousin, art director Cedric Gibbons, for Samuel Goldwyn at MGM Studios. A percussionist as a youth, he was sent by his father to New York City to study with Tito Puente In 1963, Gibbons received his first electric guitar following his thirteenth birthday, a sunburst Gibson Melody Maker, accompanied by a Large Cat amplifier and was influenced by guitarists such as Jimmy Reed. While attending Warner Brothers' art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons engaged with his first bands including The Saints, Billy G & the Blueflames, and The Coachmen. By 18, Gibbons went forward forming an artfully designed band, conceptually inspired by friend and fellow musician, Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators, naming the group the "Moving Sidewalks", penning the hit single, "99th Floor" and engaging a friendship with Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix went on to say on The Tonight Show, and "The Dick Cavett Show" that Gibbons would be the next hottest guitarist.
Gibbons founded the Texas psychedelic group The Moving Sidewalks, which recorded several singles and one full-length album, Flash. Gibbons and The Moving Sidewalks came to prominence opening for The Jimi Hendrix Experience during Hendrix's first American tour as a headliner. Also notable was the Gibbons-penned song, "99th Floor," its title a nod to the influence on Gibbons of fellow Texans and pioneering psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators. He has also commented during live performances while playing the string-bending intro to "Foxy Lady" that Hendrix taught him how to play the song when Gibbons was "about 17" in Dallas. Longstanding rumors have it that at the end of the tour Hendrix gave Gibbons the pink Stratocaster he had been playing as token of his appreciation for Gibbons' level of talent, and that Hendrix subsequently stated that Gibbons was one of the best guitarists in the US.
Gibbons formed ZZ Top in late 1969, which then quickly settled on bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank "Rube" Beard, both being members of the band American Blues. After honing their trademark blues-rock style, they released the aptly titled ZZ Top's First Album on London Records in 1971.
The band rolled on, intensively touring and recording/releasing albums until 1977, when they took an extended hiatus. Their long-time manager took this time to negotiate a deal that allowed the band to keep control of their previous recordings, to be distributed by their new label, Warner Bros. Records. They reunited two-and-a-half years later in order to start recording under a new Warner Bros. contract. Independently, both Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons had grown the chest-length beards that quickly became a part of their image.
The band hit international prominence and their commercial peak with the release of 1983's diamond-selling disc Eliminator. Eliminator was named after Gibbons' customized 1933 Ford Coupe, which was featured in three of the band's music videos. This vehicle is on exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The album featured the hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'", "Sharp Dressed Man", and "Legs".
In 1994, the band signed a multi-million dollar, five-disc deal with RCA Records.
In 2003, a comprehensive collection of recordings from the London and Warner Bros. years entitled Chrome, Smoke & BBQ was released. In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have the distinction of being among a very small group of bands with a 40-year-plus history that still has all of its original members.
Other music-related appearances
Gibbons played the first slide guitar lead on the song "Dead End Streets" on Al Jourgensen of Ministry's side project Revolting Cocks album Cocked and Loaded. He also wrote, played guitar on and sang the song "Willin' For Satisfaction" from Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell's 2005 solo album Two Sides Of If.
Gibbons collaborated with the Queens of the Stone Age on the song "Burn the Witch" from the album Lullabies to Paralyze. ZZ Top's "Precious and Grace" was also recorded with lead vocals provided by Mark Lanegan as a bonus track for the album. Gibbons has also claimed this was one of his favorite collaborations and "Precious and Grace" was later added back into ZZ Top's set lists. Gibbons was also selected to guest the follow-up album Era Vulgaris but was unable to due to scheduling conflicts.
Together with The Raconteurs Gibbons performed at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Gibbons was part of an ensemble chosen to play with the band, which included Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch. The performance was heavily edited and cut short by MTV for broadcast. However, the full unedited performance is available on MTV's Website for the VMAs. Although not a full-length performance, Gibbons can also be heard playing a few bars of the ZZ Top classic "La Grange."
Gibbons was one of several artists to participate together with B.B. King on the song "Tired Of Your Jive," from the B.B. King & Friends album. Gibbons also appeared on Nickelback's album All the Right Reasons on the songs "Follow You Home," "Fight for All the Wrong Reasons" and "Rockstar." Gibbons performed with Hank Williams III on the song "Trashville," from his album Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'.
Gibbons collaborated with Les Paul with his Les Paul & Friends American Made, World Played track "Bad Case of Loving You." Gibbons also performed guitar with John Mayall & Friends' track "Put It Right Back" from the album Along for the Ride. He was the first artist to appear on stage at Cleveland's State theater in November 2008 at the American Music Master Tribute to Les Paul, honoring the guitar and recording innovator, who died a few months later.
Gibbons was also a guest vocalist on Kid Rock's "Hillbilly Stomp" from the album Kid Rock.
He was also the guitarist during singer Luis Fonsi's presentation at the 7th Latin Grammy awards held in Madison Square Garden, New York, on November 2, 2006. Lately Gibbons also sang background vocals on former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar's 2008 CD Cosmic Universal Fashion during the song "Switch on the Light." Gibbons collaborated with Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks & Dunn fame, for Ronnie's first solo work, playing guitar and singing along on the song, "Honky Tonk Stomp". Gibbons played guitar on "Broke Down On the Brazos", the opening track of Gov't Mule's 2009 album By a Thread. Gibbons played guitar on "Run Rudolph Run", the third track of We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year compilation. Gibbons joined Jeff Beck onstage at the 2009 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert with a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady". Gibbons made a special guest appearance behind Roky Erickson on Austin City Limits taped on November 12, 2007 and originally aired January 12, 2008. (ACL Season 33, Episode 12). Gibbons plays lead guitar on two songs from the 2008 Everlast album Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford: "Stone in My Hand" and "Anyone".
On January 22, 2010, Gibbons joined Ben Harper, Beck, Conan O'Brien, and others on the final episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien playing a Will Ferrell-led rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird".
On February 19, 2011, Gibbons appeared as a guest judge at the 5th Annual Misprint Beard and Moustache Contest at the Mohawk club in Austin, Texas.
On December 15, 2012, Gibbons made a guest appearance at Social Distortion's concert at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Frontman Mike Ness brought him out for two songs, "Drug Train" and "Black Magic". On November 19, 2014, Gibbons performed "Baby Please Don't Go" at the Vaclav Havel Bust Dedication Ceremony in the US Capitol.
On July 31, 2015 it was announced that Gibbons solo project will be named Billy Gibbons and the BFG's. Their debut album, Perfectamundo, was released on November 6, 2015.
Gibbons has a recurring role on the Fox network TV series Bones. He plays a fictionalized version of himself, as the father of Michaela Conlin's character, Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro. He is never referred to by name on the show, however; every mention is limited to "Angela's father." Conlin's character's middle name is the same as Gibbons' Les Paul guitar. Gibbons's character is extremely protective of his daughter, and he often "threatens" or "haunts" Angela's husband and work colleague Dr. Jack Hodgins, telling him that if he hurts Angela, he will pay. When Angela and Hodgins first broke up he drugged and kidnapped Hodgins, during which time he also gave him a tattoo of Angela's face on his left biceps. After Angela discovers the tattoo she informs Hodgins she wants it removed (he never removed it) and angrily exclaimed when she discovered it was her dad's doing that "I am so going to kick his Texan bad ass".
He has appeared in several other episodes of Bones, including one where he asks Hodgins to help him recover his car from some "biker hoods". In his next appearance, he argued with Hodgins over baby names. He wanted the child to be named "Staccato Mamba;" which came to him in a song, while Angela and Hodgins wanted to name him "Michael Joseph." (Parents and grandfather compromised on "Michael Staccato.") At the end of the episode Hodgins discovers he has yet another tattoo on his right biceps, this time of his father-in-law with the word "Daddy" across Gibbons' beard (at which point Gibbons told Hodgins that celebratory tequila and him don't seem to mix). In a more recent episode he asks to baby sit his grandson Michael, pointing out that Angela had spent many nights when she was a baby sleeping soundly backstage while he played to sold out stadiums. After initial reluctance of Angela and Hodgins, they agree due to the need to get some sleep as Michael won't stop crying and won't go to sleep. Gibbons solves the problem by discovering the music Michael likes, including Blues and Boogie Rock, such as ZZ Top's Hi Fi Mama.
Gibbons voiced a character in episode 60 of Metalocalypse.
Gibbons also voiced a fictionalised version of himself in Fox's animated show King of the Hill which is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas. ZZ Top's appearance on the show was due to Dusty Hill being given the role as the cousin of the show's main character Hank Hill. Frank Beard also voiced himself for the Band's appearances on the show.
BFG Brand sauces
In 2011, Gibbons joined with Texas-based Mojo Products, LLC to launch a line of hot sauces, barbecue sauces, and other products with his own personal branding, "BFG Brand". The sauces are sold as BFG No. 44 via his personal website.
In late 2012, Gibbons was featured in a series of television commercials for Fiesta Mart, a Texas supermarket chain. Various BFG Brand sauces were briefly seen in the commercials.
On December 14, 2005, Gibbons married long-time girlfriend Gilligan Stillwater (born Ellen J. Oetjen).
Gibbons is an avid car collector and custom car enthusiast with an extensive collection that includes 1948 Cadillac Series 62 (known as CadZZilla), 1962 Chevrolet Impala (known as Slampala), 1950 Ford Business Coupe, and a 1958 Ford Thunderbird. One of his earliest custom cars, a 1933 Ford coupe (known as Eliminator), was featured in three of his band's videos. Gibbons also published a book in 2011 about his love of cars and guitars titled Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Rock Gearhead. The November 2014 issue of Guitar World magazine features an interview of Gibbons and fellow guitarist Jeff Beck about their mutual appreciation of "cars, guitars, and everything in between".