Billy Gibbons was born on this date in Houston in 1949. The legendary ZZ Top guitarist formed the band from the ashes of his psychedelic blues group Moving Sidewalks, who opened for Jimi Hendrix among others, in 1969. By the time ZZ Top released their debut album, the aptly named ZZ Top’s First Album, in 1971, the band had solidified its lineup of bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard, which, up until Hill’s death on July 28, 2021, was the longest-running band with an unchanged lineup in popular music history.
Led by Gibbons’ guitar playing and the rock-solid rhythm section of Hill and Beard, Top’s chemistry and signature Texas blues-rock style was evident from the beginning. In 1973, the trio released their landmark sophomore album Tres Hombres, which contained the classic “La Grange” as well as tunes like “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Waitin’ For The Bus.” While Tres Hombres and its 1975 follow up, Fandango! — which contained another classic rock staple, “Tush” — cemented them as one of the best blues-rock bands in the country, ZZ Top achieved astronomical success after reinventing themselves in the 1980s.
Beginning in 1979, Gibbons and Hill took on their iconic chest-length beards and began expanding their sound to include synthesizers and various effects. Their 1979 album Degüello — which contained “Cheap Sunglasses” and “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” among others — ushered in Top’s most commercially successful era in the 1980s. Their iconic look, sense of humor and stage presence made videos for hits like “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” perfect for the MTV era.
Now a cultural phenomenon, ZZ Top’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame was assured and took place in 2004 alongside an impressive class including George Harrison, Prince, Jackson Browne, Bob Seeger and others. The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards inducted the band who performed perhaps their two most famous songs from the 1970s, “La Grange” and “Tush.”
To celebrate Billy Gibbons’ birthday, watch ZZ Top perform at their Rock & Roll Hall OF Fame Induction in 2004 below: