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BILLY GIBBONS (& a touch of Ernest Hemmingway)

Oftentimes at the end of a book Hemmingway would write a short piece on how he’d set about writing that particular book. A ‘trade mark’ approach of his was to create a particular atmosphere using simple everyday words, deliberately avoiding what he described as ‘the ten dollar’ words. And this of course as we all know, he did brilliantly well.

In my view Billy Gibbons does the same thing – in place of vast sweeping swathes of glittering notes he can, and does, achieve better bigger bangs by hitting just exactly the right note in just exactly the right place. Clearly capable of dazzling runs which I’ve witnessed, more often he will work brilliantly within the time structure with amazing accuracy and effect.

Any given beat obviously has a set time scale and within that beat, or perhaps better described as within the space between any two beats, there is limited room to manoeuvre. Where Billy Gibbons particularly excels in my view is his exquisite positioning of each note within those gaps. Kind of a natural thing I guess, this innate ability lives in your soul but you still have to achieve a certain standard of both skill and awareness before you gain the freedom to get it going fully – reflecting your ability to create and play what you know or recognise as what you want to hear.

Billy F Gibbons – born December 16, 1949 to Frederick Royal (Freddie) and Lorraine 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.

In 1963, Gibbons received his first electric guitar  following his thirteenth birthday, a sunburst Gibson ‘Melody Maker’ along with a Fender ‘Champ’ amplifier. While attending Warner Brothers’ art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons got into his first bands including ‘The Saints’, ‘Billy G & the Blueflames’, and ‘The Coachmen’. By 18, Gibbons formed a band conceptually inspired by ‘The Thirteenth Floor Elevators’, naming the group the ‘Moving Sidewalks’ and penning the hit single, ‘99th Floor’.

Gibbons is known for playing his Gretch ‘Billy Bo’ ’ guitar (designed by himself in conjunction with the brilliant Bluesman Bo Diddly) and his famous 1959 Gibson ‘Les Paul’  guitar known as ‘Pearly Gates’. Gibbons has a wide Bass vocal range, one of the widest ranges in Rock. He is noted for using a Mexican Peso coin as a guitar pick and uses many pinch harmonics in his solos.

Not just pinch harmonics and a brilliant voice…Billy does little to settle the argument regarding the balance between nature and nurture that produces genius. Like most people who qualify for this title he started in his early teens and hasn’t stopped but no matter how hard you work there are always some elements that cannot be taught, in my view these elements are personified in Mr Gibbons.

I have heard mention that Billy has a tendency to dominate in the studio – personally I’d have no problem with that – who wouldn’t want a brilliant articulate and gifted artist in command? Trust me dudes, BFG is one shrewd and very articulate cookie.

BTW – Billy Gibbons is also well known for his authentic preparations of Texas style barbecue and Mexican cuisine and his famous ‘Renegade Guacamole’.

Billy formed ZZ Top in late 1969, they released the aptly titled ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ on London Records in 1971.

The band continued touring and releasing albums until 1977, when they took an extended break. They reunited two-and-a-half years later in order to start recording under a new Warner Brothers contract.

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, (customized by Gibbons himself, along with everything else a well known car customizer), which was featured in three of the band’s music videos. The album featured the hits ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ (still a part of my set!) , and ‘Legs’.

Billy is apparently very happy to be working with Rick Rubin (another giant beard!) as producer with a celebrated attitude for not rushing stuff.

Spring 2012 is BFG’s guess for the new album release – no title yet but may well have a Mexican flavour. Personally, can’t wait!



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