Interview: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons Talks About A Forty-Plus Year Legacy And New Album

Above: ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Billy Gibbons

They’ve sold more than 50 million albums, are revered by fans and critics alike, and have toured the world for more than 40 years. ZZ Top are members  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and have decades of hit songs and albums to their name. Here are 10 Questions with Billy Gibbons, guitarist and lead singer of the band, about ZZ Top’s past, present, and future.

AmongMen: After 40 years of touring and recording, how is being on the road for you these days? Do you still enjoy the travel?
Billy Gibbons: Traveling the road’s much easier now than it was back then insofar as we each ride a personal touring coach rather than piling into a van.  It’s like an apartment on wheels without the zip code. We enjoy the “being there” a bit more than the “getting there” however, it’s all about the one with the other so it’s all good.

AM: Having been through all the ups and downs of dealing with record labels, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the music industry over the past four decades?
BG: There was more consistency until recently. The usual delivery for a given label might have been 3, 5, or with luck, maybe 10 albums. These days it’s more likely to be a one-off deal which ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Obviously the biggest change is the digital revolution. When ZZ began it was all about LPs, 45s, cassettes and then CDs became the thing. Now it’s mp3s and streaming. We just make music and leave the delivery to others.

AM: Some artists love the studio and others despise it and only like performing live.  What’s the balance for you?
BG: We’re very much into both, studio and stage. Our evidence is ZZ’s fourth album, Fandango!, which was cut live on side one and studio recordings on the other. We were tampering with the hybrid before Toyota.

AM: ZZ Top is one of those rare bands still recording today who can say they’ve had their music released in multiple formats over the years, from vinyl to cassette to CDs to digital downloads. Do you have a preference as far as how you’ve liked your music released and listened to?<
BG: Well, it would be fair to say vinyl is still the king. The pops and clicks and actual grooves add to the aura but we’re quite ok with the new things… we’re certainly not technology averse.

AM: ZZ Top received a lot of success during the height of MTV’s popularity in the 1980s. Your music videos were very popular and in constant rotation on television. How much of the band’s popularity—if any–do you think was due to that visibility in that format?
BG: We’ll offer a definite “some” in response. Not many would have directed those videos without those tunes so if ya’ like eggs you gotta like chickens and vice versa.

AM: Some artists love making videos whereas others see it as a necessary nuisance. What was your experience making them?
BG: We always make the most of it, even making a special effort to sidestep being the actual scripted focus which is why cars and girls are the star. We’re just kind of video bystanders. That being said, we’d be the last to complain about being part of this since we get to hang out with lots of great people— did I mention there are pretty girls involved?

AM: The album Eliminator has sold over ten million copies and been certified Diamond. Was there a feeling when you were creating that album that it would have such a legacy? Did it feel like a legend in the making?
BG: Well, Eliminator was cut in Memphis and the overall feeling was one of, “Damn! This is some sure fine barbecue.” That tone and feel remained throughout the actual tracking. And the result was that many found the work to their liking. Inspiration and creativity go well with a lot of grease and sauce.

AM: You were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. If you could induct any artist yourself today, who would you choose?
BG: Thinking it would be Lightnin’ Hopkins from our home town of Houston, Texas. He was the most facile country blues man in history with a spirit that was pure rock ’n’ roll. Lightnin’ dressed sharp, made up songs on the fly and his guitar breakdowns are still being analyzed by practitioners to this day. He was a direct influence on our recent release, “I Gotsa Get Paid” so having Lightnin’ inducted would be a fitting payback.

AM: A forty-plus year legacy is something few bands will ever accomplish, let alone while achieving the enormous success ZZ Top has. With so many bands splitting up even after a few years, what’s the secret to keeping the group together for so many years?
BG: The secret may actually be a few things: We’re an odd (very) number which eliminates a tie vote and since there are only three of us, there ain’t any “factions”. The main element is still about having a good time and a good time it is…!

AM: Let’s say ZZ Top releases an album of cover songs. Can you name five songs by other artists you’d be interested in covering?
J.B. Hutto’s “Combination Boogie”… Jeff Beck (and Jimmy Page)’s “Beck’s Bolero”… Barbara Lynn with The Rolling Stones: “We Got A Good Thing Goin’”…  Howlin’ Wolf: “Evil”…  Bobby Blue Bland: “Farther On Up The Road”. Throwing one more in and that’s “Treat Her Right” by Roy Head — hey! we actually just covered that on our Perfectamundo solo album coming out in October!

Billy Gibbons’ solo album, Perfectamundo is due out from Concord Records on October 23rd. ZZ Top info can be found at

Ward Anderson is one-half of the talk radio program “Ward & Al”, heard weekdays on SiriusXM’s “Canada Talks” channel, 167. He is also a comedian, author, and freelance writer. He can be found at

Related Posts

Previous Post Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *