Usually, the MTV Newsroom Blog celebrates the birthdays of young starlets or up-and-coming musicians who have made a much bigger impact on the music world than their years would suggest. But today, we raise a cupcake to a true legend who will be blowing out some candles on a cake. ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons turns 61 years old today, and the dynamic Texan has made a career out of being the steady guiding hand of one of the best bands in America.
Gibbons grew up outside of Houston and became a guitar prodigy at an early age. When he moved to Hollywood to attend Warner Brothers’ art school, he befriended musicians like Roky Erickson (of Thirteenth Floor Elevators fame) and Jimi Hendrix (who once declared Gibbons as the next great guitar legend). Gibbons’ first serious band, the Moving Sidewalks, even opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience during their first American tour.
Shortly thereafter, Gibbons formed ZZ Top with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard (the later, ironically, was the only member of the band who didn’t have a beard). Their bluesy, groovy style slowly built a following, and they became known as a can’t-miss live act full of extended jams and Gibbons’ strange, endearing charisma. They finally broke through to the mainstream with their 1983 album Eliminator. Ironically, the disc got a huge boost from the then-nascent MTV, which put many of their videos (including the smash hit “Legs”) into heavy rotation.
In addition to his steady contributions with ZZ Top, Gibbons has also been a valued collaborator with the likes of Kid Rock, Jack White (he sat in with the Raconteurs at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards), Queens of the Stone Age and Nickelback. He also played on Conan O’Brien’s final episode of “The Tonight Show” (alongside Beck, Ben Harper and Will Ferrell) and has a semi-regular role as Angela’s father on the hit procedural “Bones.” In honor of one of the great contributors to American rock, check out the video for “Sharp Dressed Man.”