Five Questions For ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons

Last month, we sat down with Billy Gibbons for a lengthy discussion about guitars, Texas music history and much, much more. You’ll find the interview and dozens of exclusive photos in the forthcoming Fretboard Journal #26, out during the Summer of 2012. In the meantime, here are five questions that didn’t make the cut, on everything from Girl Fridays and Flying V’s to acoustics.

Fretboard Journal: When you first formed ZZ Top, what guitars were you playing and why?

Billy Gibbons: A 1957 Gibson Flying V was in hand for the first wave of ZZ sounds. That V filled the bill in the search for a mid-’50s Gibson with humbucking pickups. The Gibson humbucking pickups, of course, were believed to be the driving force behind the fierce tones everyone seemed to be stretching for.

FJ: You have a massive collection of guitars. How do you keep track? Is there a spreadsheet somewhere?

BG: The good fortune of having a righteous Girl Friday is key. There’s so much movement between making studio dates and touring stage calls, a trusting soul who keeps track of the “care and where” is true salvation. She’s always there to facilitate a grab ‘n go!

FJ: You’re known for chambering the bodies of most of your guitars. You also play with light (7 gauge) strings. How did you stumble upon these discoveries?

BG: Well, the luxury of them slinky seven’s is an out-and-out oddity to many, yet the notion of using a light gauge string was directed to me by none other than B.B. King, who happened to pick up an axe I stuck in the corner strung up with some gnarly, heavy wire, and asked, “Why you workin’ so hard?” Following that interesting lead, we went for the lean string thing.

FJ: You have modern builders creating custom guitars for you all of the time. Are there any guitars you’ve wanted (or wanted made) that you couldn’t get your hands on?

BG: Not yet. The saying holds true, “One’s too many and a hundred ain’t enough!” However, our main man, Mr. John Bolin, who runs things over at Bolin Guitars, has the most gifted sense of feel when it comes to building guitars. Dream it up and it will be done.

FJ: Do you ever play an acoustic guitar?

BG: Acoustics? Out of the question. They’re bad luck to me. Let me plug this thing in and show you why!

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