William Frederick Gibbons, later known as Billy Gibbons, was born in Houston, Texas back in 1949 and started his musical career in 1967. During his childhood and adolescence, he had the chance to see many legendary Blues artists playing in his town. He even had the chance to meet the guitarist Jimi Hendrix, when Gibbons band The Moving Sidewalks toured with him.
So the Texan guitarist was lucky enough to be in contact with many amazing artists since he was quite young. What makes it harder for him to be impressed by any artists who came after those experiences. But in the late 70s, when ZZ Top was already an established band on the road, he had the chance to see a group that according to him “blew his mind”.
The band that Billy Gibbons said blew his mind when he saw live
Gibbons helped to form ZZ Top in 1969 alongside Frank Beard (Drums) and Dusty Hill (Bass). They were one of the few bands who were able to have the same members for more than five decades. They were together for simply 52 years and that record only didn’t continue because sadly the band’s bassist passed away at the age of 72 in 2021.
Although the group released six praised albums in the 70s, it was in the 80s that everything changed for them because they had huge hits from albums like “Eliminator” (1983) and “Afterburner” (1985). During that decade, Rock and Roll music had evolved and was very influenced by another American guitarist who appeared a few years before.
Van Halen released their self-titled debut album in 1978 and especially the guitar players were impressed by how incredible the band’s guitarist Eddie Van Halen. In an interview with Eddie Trunk in 2021, Gibbons said that the band “blew his mind” the first time he saw them.
“Oh my goodness, I knew him well from the very first record. He was actually, as it came to pass, I discovered that he was a neighbor. (He lived) very close to the house back in Los Angeles. And I first heard the word, ‘Hey, man, there’s a guy that plays some interesting guitar riffs.”
“Maybe you should get together,’ only to discover that sitting in the record bin was the first Van Halen record. They had already picked up steam. Fortunately, I was able to go out and catch a live show. That blew my mind. I said, ‘Oh my gosh, these guys have got it going on.’ I miss him dearly.”
“We play in different styles. He and I got together because we both discovered we had a passion for Mexican food. And after his passing, there’s not a day that goes by when I can dip into a bowl of hot sauce. It’s kind of a revisit of fond recollections of being able to hang out together. It’s something else,” Billy Gibbons said.
Although Van Halen released their first album in 1978, the band was formed five years earlier, in 1972. Until their first album they played in the bar circuit in California. Before they had more original songs, they used to perform a lot of covers, which included ZZ Top.
Some of the tracks from the power trio they used to perform were: “Chevrolet”, “Brown Sugar”, “La Grange”, “Waiting For The Bus”, “Francine”, “Tush” and “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers”.
Gibbons said that Eddie’s technical prowess is nearly unsurpassed
It’s not a coincidence that many famous guitarists already said that Eddie Van Halen could have been the best guitar player since Jimi Hendrix. Gibbons told ABC Audio in 2020 that his “technical prowess is nearly unsurpassed”.
“It was really gratifying to be in front of a guy that genuinely appreciated and enjoyed every single moment. Eddie’s technical prowess is nearly unsurpassed. When it comes (to the) hammer-on (style), he’s one of the guys that not only did it best.”
“But did it fast, he did it furiously. And I know that we’re gonna miss hearing some of that hammer-on stuff from Eddie V. What a great player. What a great guy,” Billy Gibbons said.
They had the chance to meet each other in the early 80s. The meeting happened at an after-show event which was held on the famous cruise ship called “The Queen Mary”. He said that during that encounter they talked about how the ZZ Top song “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers”, released in 1973 had the hammer-on technique Van Halen adopted.