Those who read his book Rock + Roll Gearhead know that Gibbons’ love of custom guitars is equalled only by his love of vintage cars and other hot rods. In that spirit, he dreamed up the ultimate crazy idea for a guitar in 2015. Gibson had already made the Pearly Gates replica with the help of the most Texan bearded man in the world, but the SG Ultimate project pushed the originality and fantasy of the design by mixing it as much as possible with the automotive world. This amazing hybrid features an SG 61 body offset on two levels (the three buttons are lower) and painted in two different colours (copper and gold), with a Flying V neck and its famous rounded triangle head emblazoned with the steel logo.
As always, the devil is in the detail: the Sideways tremolo inevitably calls to mind an old Cadillac, the gold plate at the base of the neck bears Gibbons’ signature, and the electronics access panel at the back is in the shape of Texas. And the ultimate detail, the case was decorated by the artist James Willis with a superb fresco depicting the Lone Star State in all its splendour.
This SG Ultimate was available in an ultra-limited edition through the catalogue of Neiman Marcus, a luxury retail chain with its headquarters in... you guessed it... Texas. This is the third prototype, numbered Proto #003, a guitar that dates back to before the beginning of official production.
Group : ZZ Top
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Just Got Paid
Billy Gibbons is the boss. The boss of guitarists with his sensual tremolo and the fat sound like a burrito he gets from his Les Paul. The boss of singers with his rocky and twangy sound. The boss of bandleaders with ZZ Top, his trio whose lineup has remained the same since 1969. The boss of engineers, with an impeccable sense of staging. And finally the boss of collectors, with several hangars filled with several thousand guitars that he has acquired over the years. Legend has it that he would have a copy from every year of every model from the major brands, and that may not be just a legend... In any case, the guitars that we know he has are enough to turn heads. From “Mistress Pearly Gates”, the famous Les Paul 59 that has always been with him, to his 54 hardtail Strat that we often hear in addition to Pearly Gates, along with his many custom hotrod guitars.
His career began in 1967 with The Moving Sidewalks, one of the few psychedelic Texas rock bands inspired by the 13th Floor Elevators. They opened for Jimi Hendrix before breaking up in 1969, when Gibbons founded ZZ Top.
The trio began with rich and traditional blues rock before going in a more electronic direction, starting with Degüello in 1979. That direction was confirmed with the Eliminator/Afterburner/Recycler trilogy. Three albums where the blend of Gibbons’ blues with the synthesisers and drum machines of the time produced a result that won over many fans, whether they came to trio’s music through singles like Gimme All Your Loving and Rough Boy, or through the band’s excellent videos that were often played on MTV. Since then, ZZ Top has reinvented its music once again with a fatter, more organic, and fuzzy sound. Gibbons has made multiple appearances as a guest star on other musicians’ albums. He has also released two albums under his own name: Perfectamundo, which explores Cuban music, and Big Bad Blues, which returns to his first loves, between Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. The circle is complete.