zz top

This year we uncovered that Billy Gibbons X-rayed his hands, John 5 celebrated his unsung guitar hero, and why Tommy Shaw has beef with the guitar industry. Now see our most memorable chats from 2021.

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Billy Gibbons is known to favor T-style guitars. On his new track “Hombre Sin Nombre,” he used a 1956 Fender Tele for a break that features pinch harmonics and gobs of reverb.
Photo by Gerardo Ortiz

ZZ Top’s guitar wizard honors his childhood roots on Perfectamundo—his first solo record ever—with a mix of Afro-Cuban beats, rumbling Hammond B-3, and plenty of gritty, greasy, growling guitar.

The Gandalf of Texas blues-rock guitar, Billy F. Gibbons, has traded “how, how, how, how” for “cómo, cómo, cómo, cómo” on his first solo album, the surprising and yet entirely Gibbons-esque Perfectamundo. The surprise lies in the lyrics and rhythmic lilt, which are both distinctly Latin and suggest the kind of Afro-Cuban grooves found on Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club or a classic record by mambo king Tito Puente. The “Gibbons” factor lurks in the low-end grit and cosmic grease he smears all over the album’s 11 tracks. It’s these sounds that make Perfectamundo, like many of ZZ Top’s hippest recordings, a trippy journey through the terrain of BFG’s dust, gasoline, and cerveza-infused musical psyche.

Perfectamundo raises questions, the biggest being: Why a solo album after 46 years as the 6-string brujo and primary diviner of one of rock’s coolest and most successful bands?

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The Texas rockers have used the same tone formula for decades, but when it comes to gear and making a statement, they’re kings of style.

Dusty Hill’s new No. 1 bass matches Billy Gibbons’ No. 1 guitar, and both are chambered John Bolin creations. The new designs are called the “Peeler” guitar and bass, because of the paint-peeling look, which is a laminate sticker design that was inspired by the peeling finish of a ’56 Precision bass that was damaged in a flood. All of Hill’s basses are ’50s slab-body Precision basses that feature Babicz bridges and stacked Seymour Duncan Precision reissue pickups. The bridge pickup in Gibbons’ T-style is a Cream T Billy Gibbons signature Banger and Mash.

ZZ Top’s guitar and bass tech, Elwood Francis, explains the ins and outs of the newest guitars and basses that Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill have out on the road for 2015.