RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects

6th Jun 2012 | 17:02

RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Guitar tech Elwood Francis and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons with a John Bolin-built Pearly Gates replica
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Francis and Gibbons show off a road case filled with guitar goodness
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Those are Billy Gibbons' fingers holding his Mexican peso pick
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Francis prepares to replace a battery in Gibbons' Silvertone 'Howlin' Wolf' guitar
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
The battery in, Francis gives the Silvertone a few strums
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Gibbons' John Bolin-built 'Stoner' T-style guitar
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
A John Bolin-built T-style guitar with Chinese lettering
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
John Bolin-modified Gibson Melody Maker
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
The John Bolin-built 'Fur Bo' with Gretsch parts and a TV Jones Filter'Tron pickup
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
A John Bolin-built Pearly Gates replica
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
That's 'Gibbons' on the headstock of the John Bolin-built Pearly Gates replica
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
A Magnatone 50-watt two-channel prototype
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
A Marshall Class 5 five-watt combo used by Elwood to monitor Billy's signal
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
RIG TOUR: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on his guitars, amps and effects
Pre-soundcheck, Francis kills time while the guitars await duty

The Reverend Willie G, guitar tech Elwood Francis show us around on video

Whenever Billy Gibbons hits the road with ZZ Top, he brings with him a collection of bespoke, drool-worthy guitar goodies. Such is the case with the band's current run, dubbed the Gang Of Outlaws tour, in which 'That Little Ol' Band From Texas' headline a bang-up extravaganza that also features 3 Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson.

Gibbons and his trusty guitar tech, Elwood Francis, welcomed MusicRadar to the MGM Grand at the Foodwoods in Mashantucket, CT recently to show us the axes, amps and effects that help power the distinctive ZZ Top live sound, which you can see in the exclusive video above.

But there's one thing more: Seated in his dressing room, Gibbons reaches into his pocket and pulls out a Mexican peso. But not just any peso - this one's a guitar pick. And like most things Gibbons, there's a story:

"The preference of plectrums started early on with a Fender heavy-gauge pick," he says. "Having gotten used to it, we found that the heavier the gauge, the preferential they turned out to be. From living in Mexico for a few years when I was a punk, I remembered they had a peso coin that was so sizable that the idea became, 'Hey, I bet we could lay a pick within the confines of the coin and maybe have a machinist bevel it down.'

"Which we did. They don't make those large-sized peso coins anymore, but we got lucky and found a sackful. Even better, we found a machinist who was set up to bevel them down to playable picks. We've been on it ever since.

"We kind of jump between the rare peso coin and a plectrum made by Jim Dunlop, who came to the rescue with Billy G pick made from a plastic-like substance that was intended for racing car windows. He stumbled upon this substance, and it was perfect for picks.

"Between the peso and Dunlop Billy G Special, I'm covered," he says with a chuckle.

You can get a good look at Gibbons' unique Mexican peso pick in our gallery, along with photos of his onstage guitars and amps. And be sure to check out the video above, starring Gibbons and his right-hand man, Elwood.

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