One of rock & roll's most distinctive guitarists with his sharp but streamlined blues-influenced style, ZZ Top co-founder Billy Gibbons branched out into new musical territory in 2015 with the formation of his solo project Billy Gibbons & the BFG's. which added an Afro-Cuban accent to Gibbons' eclectic sound. Born in Houston, Texas in 1950, Gibbons developed a passion for blues and rock from listening to local radio, and in 1963 he got his first electric guitar as a Christmas present.
Within a year, Gibbons was in his first band, and by 1967 Gibbons scored a regional hit with "99th Floor," a garage-psych hybrid he wrote and recorded with the group the Moving Sidewalks. The Moving Sidewalks broke up in 1969, and in 1970 Gibbons teamed up with Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, previously of the Dallas-based band the American Blues, to form ZZ Top, the blues and boogie band that by the mid-'70s became one of America's biggest touring acts. In the '80s, ZZ Top added an electronic sheen to their music, and with the help of a handful of clever music videos, the albums Eliminator (1983) and Afterburner (1985) became the biggest hits of their career. While ZZ Top gained greater polish in the studio, they remained a hard-working live band, and Gibbons remained committed to the blues, supporting the Delta Blues Museum in Mississippi by commissioning the construction of a guitar called the "Muddy Wood," made from boards rescued from the cabin where Muddy Waters lived as a boy.
Gibbons had long had an interest in Latin music, sparked by a childhood encounter with Tito Puente when his father, a jazz musician, was studying with the legendary percussionist at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. With this in mind, Gibbons' friend Martin Guigui invited the guitarist to perform with him at the 2014 Havana Jazz Festival. While Gibbons was ultimately unable to play the gig, it got him thinking about how to merge Afro-Cuban rhythms with blues-based rock. Gibbons' experiments led him to form Billy Gibbons & the BFG's, featuring Gibbons on vocals, guitar, keyboards, and percussion and Guigui on keyboards, as well as Mike Flanigan on organ, Alex Garza on bass, Greg Morrow on drums, and members of the percussion ensemble Cubano Nationale Beat Generator. In 2015, Gibbons and producer Joe Hardy took the ensemble into the studio, and Gibbons & the BFG's issued their first album, Perfectamundo, in October 2015. It was the first solo album from a member of ZZ Top, and in the fall of 2015 Gibbons took the group on the road for his first solo dates. ~ Mark Deming