In this special episode of the Zak Kuhn Show, everybody wanted to jump in to talk to this week’s guest: rock ’n’ roll hero Billy F. Gibbons. This episode also marks the first time Kuhn has been joined by a co-host, his friend and major Gibbons fan, Zac DelVecchio.
Throughout the episode, Gibbons nonchalantly chats about his career as guitarist for the Moving Sidewalks and frontman of ZZ Top. Opening for the Rolling Stones in Hawaii, co-headlining with Aerosmith, and playing on tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the iconic rocker definitely has some stories to tell.
When asked what moment a young Gibbons would be proud to see future Gibbons achieve, he recalls a story from his childhood involving legendary blues musician B.B. King that came back full-circle.
“My dad put me in the car, I was 7. He said, ‘Hey, we’re going to the recording studio, got some business to take care of.’ When we arrived, we walked in, he put me in a chair, and he said, ‘I want you to sit here. You can be quiet. There’s a band going to make a record.’ It turned out to be B.B. King and his orchestra. They recorded a song called ‘Tired of Your Jive,’” Gibbons tells Kuhn.
“50 years later, B.B. King was being celebrated by a group of musicians,” he continues. “They were putting a CD together, a tribute to B.B. King with him performing with a host of different entertainers, and I got invited to be on the record. I showed up at the studio and BB said, ‘Do you know the song we’re going to do today?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir. “Tired of Your Jive.” I was there when you recorded it.’ He goes ‘No, that was 1957.’ I said ‘I was there’ and he said, ‘You the little boy sitting in the chair?’”
When asked about the unmistakable guitar riff on the chart-topping rock hit “La Grange,” Gibbons admits there was no foresight on how big the song would become, especially to other aspiring guitarists. He explains how it all was merely a happy accident born out of British influence.
“It was improvisation from square one. That was the genius of what Frank [Beard] and Dusty [Hill] provided was the solid rhythm section. I just had to show up. It was there. With something so solid to work across, it just comes out. Of course, we had Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Mick Abrahams, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer. We had so many of those British guys influencing everything we heard. It was not too much of a stretch to emulate. And I think that’s when the door opened. Improvising, to this day, is the creative outlet. It’s the shout,” he states.
With his legacy secured not just with ZZ Top but his inextricable connection to the Gibson Les Paul (which he discusses in the episode), Gibbons is a true rocker for the ages.
Check out the rest of the episode for more stories from the raconteur himself on the Zak Kuhn Show.
Photo by Roger Kisby.