Happy Birthday Billy Gibbons: Life Story Behind Legendary ZZ Top Frontman

by Joe Rutland
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It’s time to celebrate the 71st birthday of Billy Gibbons, frontman for rock band “Tres Hombres” or, as they are more commonly known, ZZ Top.

Gibbons has a distinctive voice, one which comes through on such ZZ Top hits as “La Grange,” “Tush,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and many others.

Yet let’s start back at the beginning, which finds Gibbons born on Dec. 16, 1949, in Houston, Texas. As a kid, he was influenced at home by country and classical music. All that, though, went out the door when he saw Elvis Presley on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Right then and there, Gibbons wanted to be a rocker.

He got his first guitar and went through a few bands as he was growing up. One of them, The Moving Sidewalks, had a bit of a psychedelic flair to it and opened four times for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Those bands, though, didn’t stick. He then formed ZZ Top with drummer Frank Beard and bassist Dusty Hill. Their first five albums between 1970-76, including their self-titled debut and “Tres Hombres” among others,” were well received. The sound was straight-forward blues and rock, which appealed to the audience.

The band took a three-year break, then returned to a changed music scene. That might have fazed other bands. Not Gibbons and his ZZ Top bandmates. They adjusted and continued to find success.

Here’s Gibbons, Beard, and Hill showing off in the official video for “Gimme All Your Lovin’.”

Gibbons was listed at No. 32 in 2011 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Billy Gibbons Shares His Love Of Playing Guitar

Besides his time with ZZ Top, Gibbons also has found time to play with other musicians and on other records, too.

He played the first slide guitar lead on “Dead End Streets” on Al Jourgensen of Ministry’s side project Revolting Cocks’ album “Cocked and Loaded.”

Gibbons was featured in 2007 in the award-winning documentary film, “The 1959 Burst,” with Les Paul guitar legends Slash, Rick Nielsen, and Eric Johnson.

One of his most recognized performances was during the 2006 ACM Awards. He took part in a tribute to Buck Owens, who died in March.

Also, he was one of several musicians who joined blues legend B.B. King on “Tired Of Your Love,” recorded for “B.B. King & Friends.”

Speaking of King and Gibbons, King invited Gibbons to join him on stage at a House of Blues concert in 2013. Here’s how that all went down.

Gibbons Finds Rich, Full Life Beyond Music

Gibbons has taken a spin, too, as an actor with a recurring role on the show “Bones.” He appeared in seven episodes over nine years. Meanwhile, he also did a voiceover version of himself for the animated show “King Of The Hill.”

He’s also got a line of sauces under the BFG Brand name.

Gibbons also likes to collect cars and is known as a custom car enthusiast.

On Dec. 14, 2005, he married his longtime girlfriend Gilligan Stillwater.

For one of the greatest guitarists in music, ol’ Billy sure has done well for himself. Millions of records sold around the world, generations of fans still listening to those classic ZZ Top songs, and the band plays on.

It’s a good life for Billy Gibbons. Happy birthday to the tall Texan with the long beard who has a bit of an outsider vibe.

Here’s one more ZZ Top video for the road, this time it’s “La Grange” from a 2013 appearance on “The Howard Stern Show.”

H/T: AllMusic.com

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