Billy Gibbons’ ‘Rock and Roll Gearhead’ Book: Preview, Interview

In the newly expanded edition of his 2005 photo book, Billy Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead, the ZZ Top frontman invites fans into two sacred spaces: his garage and studio. The updated edition, re-released to mark the band’s 50th anniversary, showcases more than 60 guitars and 15 vehicles from the musician’s personal collection — some of which are available to view below.

“The acquisition of some interesting instruments to the quiver led to making some interesting sonics,” Gibbons tells UCR. “The updated book shares these fine axes for the enjoyment of players everywhere. And, of course, you gotta somehow get to the gig, and the trusty hot rod will get’cha there, pronto.”

The guitarist answered a few questions about the book, noting the importance of visuals to ZZ Top’s career and enthusing about how Rock + Roll Gearhead made him rediscover some crucial instruments in his collection.

How important are visuals to rock ‘n’ roll, and how did you learn or realize that? Which artists or what event/albums first helped you understand that?
As the story goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words!” ZZ Top got that firsthand when MTV entered the picture with visuals paired with sound. It’s still going strong today. Jeff Beck puts it like this, “Play it and imagine what it would look like!” …and then, “Imagine what it looks like and go play it!”.

About once or twice a year, I’ll buy an album that I’ve forgotten I already own. Do you ever do that with cars or guitars?
Oh, yeah! Many times. It’s often been pointed out that every guitar maintains a special characteristic and personality. No two are exactly alike. Same six strings, way different effect!

Did compiling the book get you reacquainted with any of your guitars? Have any of them found their way into the studio?
Yes, indeed. The surprise came outta the vault when uncovering the famed Gibson Switchmaster ES-5 seen on page 48 in the new book. It’s the rare jazz box that delivers an unexpected punch when all three pickups are engaged. It’s a beast. We’re enjoying recording the effect on several tracks on the new [Gibbons solo band] BFG disc [Hardware]. And as mentioned throughout the book, Pearly Gates is always close at hand. She’s got it.

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Watch Dion and Billy Gibbons in ‘Bam Bang Boom’ Video

Rock & roll legend Dion has a new blues album coming out next month. We have an exclusive premiere of his new video, “Bam Bang Boom,” which features ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

You can watch the clip below.

The song appears on Blues With Friends, which will be released on June 5; it’s available for pre-order now. The album contains 13 tracks, each a collaboration with artists Dion has known for years, including Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Paul Simon and others.

“This is another song that started as phrases I wanted to sing – ‘I stepped into love,’” Dion says of “Bam Bang Boom,” which he wrote about his wife, to whom he’s been married since 1963. “The lyric does a good job of describing what happened when I first met Susan. We were both teenagers. She was new to my very Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, and she was a redheaded transplant from Vermont. Bam bang boom!”

Dion also notes that “Gibbons was a joy to work with on this. There’s nobody like him.”

Bob Dylan contributed liner notes to Blues With Friends. “Dion knows how to sing, and he knows just the right way to craft these songs, these blues songs,” he writes. “He’s got some friends here to help him out, some true luminaries. But in the end, it’s Dion by himself alone, and that masterful voice of his that will keep you returning to share these blues songs with him.”

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Dion’s New Album to Feature Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck and More

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Dion‘s new album is called Blues With Friends, but that’s selling it a bit short, considering pals include fellow rock legends Bruce Springsteen, Billy Gibbons and Jeff Beck.

“I wanted an album of songs that were strong and memorable and told stories that were worth telling,” Dion said in a statement announcing the record. “The blues have been at the heart of my music since the early ’60s. ‘The Wanderer’ is a 12-bar blues, and I was covering Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed in my early years at Columbia — much to the dismay of my corporate masters.”

The album, which arrives on June 5, will be released by the new Keeping the Blues Alive label founded by Joe Bonamassa, the guitarist who helps out on the opening track and lead single, “Blues Comin’ On.”

In addition to the stars mentioned above, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and Brian Setzer also show up on the LP; established acts within the blues community like John Hammond Jr., Rory Block and Samantha Fishare also featured.

“I needed to round up the best guitarists and musicians alive and pick them from every generation, every variation of blues,” Dion said.

You can listen to “Blues Comin’ On” below.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the album the liner notes, which are penned by Bob Dylan.

“Dion knows how to sing and he knows just the right way to craft these songs, these blues songs,” he writes. “He’s got some friends here to help him out, some true luminaries. But in the end, it’s Dion by himself alone, and that masterful voice of his that will keep you returning to share these blues songs with him.”

Dion co-wrote all 14 songs and recorded them in late 2019 and early 2020 with producer Wayne Hood. “From the first day, I was at home,” Dion noted. “We hit it off like brothers on a mission. We caught the same vision and sound and off we went.”

You can see the track listing for Blues With Friends below.

Dion, ‘Blues With Friends’ Track Listing
1. “Blues Comin’ On” (with Joe Bonamassa)
2. “Kickin’ Child” (with Joe Menza)
3. “Uptown Number 7” (with Brian Setzer)
4. “Can’t Start Over Again” (with Jeff Beck)
5. “My Baby Loves to Boogie” (with John Hammond Jr.)
6. “I Got Nothin'” (with Van Morrison & Joe Louis Walker)
7. “Stumbling Blues” (with Jimmy & Jerry Vivino)
8. “Bam Bang Boom” (with Billy Gibbons)
9. “I Got the Cure” (with Sonny Landreth)
10. “Song for Sam Cooke (Here In America)” (with Paul Simon)
11. “What If I Told You” (with Samantha Fish)
12. “Told You Once in August” (with John Hammond Jr. & Rory Block)
13. “Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More)” (with Stevie Van Zandt)
14. “Hymn to Him” (with Patti Scialfa & Bruce Springsteen)

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