“Ask BFG” Billy F Gibbons Q&A

1. My question is this… With such a big catalog of songs to choose from, how do you decide which songs make the setlist for a tour? Thanks and keep grinding Rev !

Señor Dave… Great question as the band takes written request through the BFG website as well as the ZZ Top official sites to keep the live appearances fresh and entertaining. We also have a few inside favorites which vary from time-to-time, yet we truly enjoy playing anything and everything from the vast ZZ Top catalog…especially the weirdly unexpected deep tracks from the beginning to the present and all points in between…! Send in you personal fave and we’ll see you in your town, pronto.

2. What’s your take on “Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll”?

Señor Z… Well, as timeless as that simple phrase may be, it still gets heard quite often, even in these fussy days of “gotta be correct” to avoid lighting up the masses with attitude. We don’t really have much regard leaning in any particular direction as it’s still heard all the time. Rock on…!

3. Was interested in what it was like meeting johnny Cash what impression did he leave on you if any?

Johnny Cash and I met quite by a planned surprise arranged by our pal, producer Rick Rubin. Rick was in the process of producing one of his the great return to the studio albums and asked if I would write a special song aimed directly with Johnny Cash in mind. Johnny heard the song and immediately set about working up an arrangement which was on hand during our “surprise” encounter. The added bonus appeared when Johnny’s lovely and talented bride, June Carter Cash also made the showing to make for a warm and lively gathering resulting in an impromptu studio recording session delivering a memorable interpretation of the song created especially for Johnny. The entire affair remains a standout! Needless to say, a moment not soon forgotten. The song, “I Witnessed A Crime” sometimes appears on YouTube. Check it out…!

4. I noticed you wear alot of accessories and jewelry that intrigued me. The leather pouch around your neck, for instance, is that a gift from someone or is it symbolic of a belief? I am interested in the meaning,.if any of the unique adornments that you wear.
Thank you & good vibes

Sheryn…! Yes, the medicine bag is a gift from a Native American Indian long-time friend who I met while living between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tucson, Arizona. The time spent created a deep sense of appreciation of the vast desert Southwest and the strident presence of the original inhabitants of our great land. It’s something of a treasure and the contents…well, we’ve kept that our secret to be shared with friends when we get to enjoy hanging out on those rare occasions with our fans, friends and followers.

5. Who are the blues artists who had the biggest influence on you?

Paul, No doubt, the top 5 would certainly include Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Eddie Taylor, Bo Diddley, One String Sam, Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mike Henderson, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Hop Wilson, Lazy Lester, Hound Dog Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Keith Richards, The Black Keys, The Staple Singers, Elmore James, Flaco Jimenez, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Gary Clark, Jr., Frankie Lee Sims, Jeff Beck, Lil’ Son Jackson, The Bluesbreakers 1-2-3, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Winwood, The Kingsmen,
Little Richard, Little Walter, Little Willie Littlefield, Long John Hunter, Magic Sam, Mike Flanigin, The Red Devils, The Nightcaps, Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band, Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, and…. Oh, yeah, did I say the top 5… We can continue at a later date to spotlight the next “Top 5″…!

6. Do you have a post where you regale us with tales of your time off in the late 1970’s, the four years between albums? I understand you kind of went off on a “music pilgrimage” for four years
-Terry Ray

T-Ray, True enough…! Some exotic excursions through Europe and points beyond that led us toward a most appealing surge of off the wall sonic sounds that really expanded the appreciation of a wide range of tones and compositions which lent opening up to thinking and performing way outside the former “box”. We, as a band, regathered with a new found approach to the enjoyable manner of making the fave-rave expression of interpreting the great American art form, “the blues”…!

7. 1996 superbowl was the last time we heard your mistress Pearlie scream. Have you considered putting her in the Smithsonian institute?

Mr. B, Ironically, our connections with the Smithsonian’s African Art Museum brought us into focus with various other departments including conducting some unexpected discussions highlighting the specialness found in the remarkable playability and robust sound of the most strident sound maintained within “Pearly Gates”. We still hold on to “Pearly” as there’s sessions more left to call that high-powered impact of “Pearly’s” sonic explosiveness. Rock!

8. How did you get the part of Angela’s dad on the tv show BONES? The episodes that you’re on are some of my favorites!!

Shelia, Thanks for the compliment. We, too, enjoyed a lengthy standing run following the choice story lines from the legion of writer’s under developer, “Mr. Hart Hanson’s” team of storytellers, putting yours truly, BFG, in the hot seat to become Angela’s super-protective Dad. Over the course of the series, all seems to have worked out well in the long run. In actuality, our real-life relationships remain friendly and totally on solid ground. A great experience with cast and crew…!

9. Billy,
How did ever start using .007s. I use .009s I wish i could use .oo7s, but they bend out of tune when I do chords. How do you avoid that?

Mr. B… The real discovery of using light gauge strings sprang from the directive from B.B. King who encouraged the use of super slinky’s, starting with, .008’s, and ultimately sampling the marvels of going it one step deep into the realm of the newly created, .007’s from Jim Dunlop Musical Products. They’re great. Super stretchy that defies breakage and with that in mind, they hold tune exquisitely. Feel free to try lowering the action to allow the strings to lay closer to the fingerboard which reduces the tendency to stretch the strings beyond a flat plane. Keep in mind, the smaller, ’50’ era skinny frets also play a handy way to avoid pressing strings out of tune. Play on, brother. And, slither down them strings with ease…!

For more and to submit your question or song request visit the “Ask BFG” section of the site

15 thoughts on ““Ask BFG” Billy F Gibbons Q&A”

  1. Dear Right Reverend Gibbons,
    My Name is Jeff Allen, I will be at a June 9th ZZ Top show in Arkansas. My uncle went to High School with Mr. Beard in Irving, Texas and he will be with me at the show. We were super lucky to get front row tickets. My Uncle is a Vietnam Vet and loves you guys. Would it be to much to ask to get you guys to sign his yearbook with Mr. Beard in it? If not we completely understand you guys are busy.
    Jeff Allen

  2. Dear Mr. Gibbons.
    I am a 16 year old dude from Estonia. I was way too small to come to the show when you guys last visited us though 🙂 I’m hoping to come to a gig of yours in the near future though. My question would be: Do you like touring here in these parts of Europe? Y’all have definitely seen some awesome things around the world with you traveling so much. Anyway, I hope this reaches you. Thanks for making my days worthwhile with your kickass Rock and Roll.

  3. Hi there BFG,
    What was the inspiration and what gear was used for my favorite ZZ Top song of all, “The Sheik”.


  4. How can we get you to come the Cleveland IX Piston Powered Autorama in March 2018?? Maybe with one of your sweet rides?? I’m one of the organizers and participants with my rides. Would love to have you as a special guest!!!

  5. Heya Billy G – Greetings from Llano, TX
    For the past few years I’ve been on a vintage small tube combo kick, getting killer sounds out of everything from Valco, Dano, Harmony and on and on. Lots of what I call “cool junk” from the 40’s to the 60’s. Beauty of these creatures is that you can actually sit in a room and monitor with them while recording. Everyone is hip to the Champ, but it seems not a whole lot of people are into some of the more esoteric and eccentric little beasts. I was curious if you have any favorite odd-ball small tube combos that you love for recording or just sitting around?

    Thank you for all of the years of inspiration and killer tone!

  6. Rev,
    I had the pleasure of seeing both shows in Florence, Alabama. the fisrt show was in Flowers Hall at the University Of North Alabama. You were playing “Pearly” through 2 Marshall stacks. I was within 10 feet of the stage. I will never forget that night, it would have been around 1973. The other show was in the Florence Lauderdale Coliseum a couple of years later. I think it was the first time you guys did “Tush”. Thanks for the memories.

  7. Not so much of a question, more of a statement. I have a 6 year old daughter who loves your music and says that you are her first crush. I am hoping to take her to your concert in Salt Lake City in August.

  8. Dear Billy

    Hope you are well ?
    In recent years having changed management, ZZ Top have started to release more Live stuff. Are there any plans to release any concert DVDs of you guys from the
    1970s especially from the World Wide Texas Tour which I’ve heard stories about ? !!
    Best wishes

  9. Mr. Gibbons(Billy),

    I was at the First Annual ZZ Top barbecue and barn dance, way back yonder. Since then I have seen 5 more exhibitions of the great power of ZZ Top. I have no real question, but just wanted to say thank you to yourself, Dusty and the marvelous Frank(Rube) for all the music and memories. The next time you are in Richmond VA, drop me a line; I promise to see you when you do.
    Highest regards,

    Rich Hughes
    AKA The best Damon ZZ Top fan on earth

  10. Hello I love your music put I have never seen you in concert.my soon to be husband saw you in davenport iowa he really loved the concert and he talks about it all the time.He would love to see you again. We are getting married September 16 2017 at Lake keomah in oskaloosa iowa at 5 pm.we would love to see you in concert the night of September 17 in des moines iowa that’s what I have asked him for as a honeymoon present. Thank you candy

  11. Howdy Mr Gibbons,
    Ive followed ya all as a Guitar player since high school in the 70’s. Un real what you have written and recorded, and not to forget your Tone.
    Fast forward to Last year at the Venetian in Vegas. The first time I have seen Ya Live. Holly Hell your tone made my eyes water. Unreal! My Wife and Daughter said in the ride back to the house, can you quit talking about the bands tone. Dang….
    SO now as a player, collector and tone chaser, I went to my local guitar shop to look for the almighty Magnatone, J and E in Vegas. We all know Jessie worked at Rudy’s in NYC for many years and he knows all the Hot Rods, and he knows his stuff.
    SO I walk in, said to Jessie….I know you are not a Magnatone dealer, but I’m looking for a MK I or MK II. He says Im now a Magnatone dealer as of this month and I have a MKII over in the corner. Hell yes! then he says Billy played it at the Venetian Last month. Holy hell! I heard the rev play that amp…..Wrap it up. Bad ass Amp. Since I own the M80 and cab also.
    Thank You Bill!!!

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