Guitarist Billy Gibbons’ and bassist Dusty Hill’s toys can be summed up by three Bs: bold, Bolin-made, and because they said so.
“It looks like a lot, but it's simple,” insists guitar each Elwood Francis.
According to Francis, Gibbons’ wireless signal is transmitted to an RJM RJ16 signal splitter/loop, which outputs five sends:
-Send 1: JMP1 (set to a single dirty sound) into two Marshall Valvestate 120/120s. One powers the iso cab, the other the stage cabs.
-Send 2: JMP1 (set to clean) into a DI used for live recordings only. (Every gig gets recorded.)
-Send 3: Magnatone Super Fifty Nine into an iso cab.
-Send 4: Fender Reverb into a DI.
-Send 5: Francis’s monitor send.
The guitar mics are Heil PD40s. The speakers are Eminence. (“We recently started working on a custom model based on The Governor,” says Francis.) The JMP1s have been modified by Voodoo Amplification, who also make the band’s current iso cabs.
“The dirty JMP1 has an EQ in the effects loop, and each guitar has its own setting to help homogenize them,” says Francisco. “Billy has a tone comfort zone and is extremely particular about it. He enjoys playing different guitars, and it’s part of the show, but we aim for a cornerstone tone built around the ’59 Gibson Les Paul Pearly Gates through a blasted Marshall. We keep a very low stage volume, so a blasted Marshall is out of the question these days. Instead we’ve taken a realtime analyzer and recorded the curve of Pearly Gates played through our live JMP1 setting. Each guitar is shaped to fit this curve. It’s not perfect science—it’s guitar player science.”
ZZ Top approaches gear like they approach facial hair: Go big or go home. Billy Gibbons’ tech Elwood Francis and Dusty Hill’s tech Ken “TJ” Gordon give us the behind-the-scenes rundown of the current touring setup.
Billy Gibbons’ Gear
Here’s a glimpse at what Billy’s been using live, but let it be known that it’s already changed. “We started the tour using the Les Pauls for the encores, but that gave way to whatever guitars we happened to pick up along the way,” said Billy Gibbons’ tech Elwood Francis from the road in mid-November. “Things change at the drop of a hat. In the past week, we've acquired four guitars and six fuzz boxes—and the tour only has three more gigs.”
Dusty Hill’s Gear
Tech Ken “TJ” Gordon describes Dusty Hill’s bass tone as, “Texas blues with a little nastiness and a lot whoooo!” Here he guides us through Hill’s gear, including a collection of basses that were custom-made to match the guitars of bandmate Billy Gibbons.