Billy Gibbons is as synonymous with rock music as the Gibson Les Paul. Alongside Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, he rose to fame as a member of ZZ Top, whose signature brand of southern rock was immortalised on classic albums like Eliminator, Tres Hombres and Afterburner. The three musicians were the perfect fit, but that hasn’t stopped Gibbons from imagining an alternative. Here the guitarist selects eleven of his dream bandmates.
After opening for The Jimi Hendrix Experience with his Texas group The Moving Sidewalks, Billy Gibbons formed ZZ Top at the tail end of 1969, poaching bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank ‘Rube’ Bear from the band American Blues. After a couple of years of developing their supercharged blues sound, they released ZZ Top’s First Album on London Records in 1971. However, it wasn’t until the release of their third LP, Tres Hombres, that they really broke through, releasing instant classics like ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ and La Grange’.
In 2010, Gibbons sat down with Elmore Magazine. After revealing a desire to write with The Black Keys and recalling his first ever live concert – his mother took him to see Elvis – Gibbons was asked to detail the lineup of his dream rock ‘n’ roll band: “In addition to my two partners, Doyle Bramhall on drums, maybe singing a bit; he’s underrated, but he can sing Ray Charles like Ray,” he began. “An organist would be Jimmy Smith or Jimmy McGriff, or John Patton. I would clump those guys.”
When it comes to his guitarist, Gibbons lumps for one of the Jimmys: “That would be Jimmy Reed, Jimmie Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.” Reed was a huge influence on Gibbons, with the guitarist remembering how his records completely altered his view of guitar playing. “Upon listen after listen after listen, one may come across the realization that, though the forms seem simplistic, Jimmy Reed recordings are very complex,” he told Elmore.
Gibbons also selected a member of Reed’s band for his dream outfit. “Dusty might want to take a smoking break, but I’d get Eddie Taylor, who played with Jimmy Reed’s trio—two guitars and drums,” he continued. “You listen to those records and you don’t realize that there is no bass; Eddie played the bottom-end sides, the bass lines.”
That just left Gibbons in need of a frontman – perhaps the most difficult role to choose. In the end, he went for not one but four vocalists. “Me, Jagger and Keith Richards as singers, and—this will make a rather amusing addition—Jeff Beck as a singer,” he concluded. Now that’s something we’d all pay good money to see.
Billy Gibbons’ dream bandmates:
- Dusty Hill
- Frank Beard
- Doyle Bramhall
- Jimmy Smith
- Jimmy McGriff
- John Patton
- Jimmy Reed
- Jimmie Vaughan
- Jimi Hendrix
- Eddie Taylor
- Mick Jagger
- Keith Richards
- Jeff Beck
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