View from the Top

Listen to any classic rock radio channel in the world for a couple hours and you’re bound to hear at least a handful of ZZ Top songs slide out of your speakers. You’ll have a chance to see the beards in action when The Gang of Outlaws Tour brings ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down to Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain on May 30. Known for their blues-rock blend, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard have been together for more than 40 years and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 by Rolling Stones great, Keith Richards. I’m sure you know the hits; “Legs,” “Tush,” “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” and “LaGrange” just to name a few. The band has been in and out of the studio working on a new record and is expected to debut some new songs during their upcoming summer tour.
I recently caught up with Billy Gibbons and was able to pick his brain.

What is the fuel that keeps “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas” running all of these years?
Some of that high octane juice we call “The Blues.” The Blues never let you down or leaves you stranded by the side of the road, but if that’s where you happen to find yourself, you can just call on the Blues to see you through.

Talk about recording the new record and the release of your new single “I Gotsta Get Paid.”
The new album, which still lacks a title, has been an ongoing endeavor for about the past two or three years, which is not to say we’ve been locked up in a studio all that time. We’ve been touring quite regularly so when we’re off the road we’re in recording and the sojourns out of the studio have served to keep thinking fresh. Having another mind on the matter — Rick Rubin’s — has made for a great experience, too. The song title is formatted as “I Gotsta Get Paid” and is based on the Houston underground rap hit “25 Lighters” by DJ DMD with Lil Keke and Fat Pat. We used the song as a point of departure for this one and salute these heroes of the Houston ghetto for lighting a delayed fuse back in the late 1990s.

What artists, old or new, are you currently listening to?
Old is what you’d expect. The Three Kings: B.B., Albert and Freddie, who we just had the honor of inducting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, plus the universe of greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins, etc. Still lovin’ us those classic (Rolling) Stones, too.
Of the newer bands, we’re partial to Amplified Heat, a trio from Texas who play it low down and dirty. (Where have we heard this before?) Also digging Black Joe Louis and the Honeybears, Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition, the South Memphis String Band and whole lot of others. On the country side, we’re really digging our friend Jamey Johnson who knows how to rock it in a big way. He’s working some serious chin-whiskers, too.

Here’s what’s in my headphones this week: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears Scandalous (Lost Highway) 2011