Billy Gibbons’ beard is the stuff of legend. It’s iconic. It is to the Texan blues-rock shuffle what Elvis’ white jumpsuit is to rock ’n’ roll. But Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme has revealed that the ZZ Top frontman’s beard is more than just a look. When he and Gibbons were jamming, Gibbons played a harmonic with his beard.
Homme was in conversation with Marc Maron for his WTF Podcast when he shared this moment of electric guitar history. The story goes back to 2004, and the sessions for QOTSA’s Lullabies To Paralyze. Being a huge ZZ Top fan, Homme was desperate to play with Gibbons and made the approach.
“For me, that was one of the huge moments of my career,” said Homme. “Really, at the time he hadn’t really jammed with many outsiders in years, and luckily there were some people at his management who were into Queens. I got him in there under the guise of doing [ZZ Top’s] Precious And Grace but then I said, ‘But I have this thing…’”
Precious And Grace duly got recorded, with Gibbons performing lead vocals with Mark Lanegan, but that thing Homme had in mind was Burn The Witch, and he wanted Gibbons to take a solo over it. As Homme tells it, they were jamming it out and the beard did the rest.
“When was playing the lead on that song, his beard gently floated down and hit the strings and it made a harmonic with his beard,” said Homme. “I swear. It’s on film. And I literally grabbed him by the shoulders, I’m shaking Billy Gibbons, ‘Dude, you did the first ever beard harmonic!’”
Homme and Maron went on to speak about the influence of ZZ Top, with Homme admitting to using the early recordings as a reference for drum sounds. “It’s such a great drum sound,” he said. “It’s tight, dry, sort of vacuous, beautiful sound. I’ve used it as a sonic reference when I’m in the studio for what to chase after. I love all that stuff.”
Once Gibbons entered the QOTSA inner circle, Homme took the opportunity to ask him how he executed one of his signature licks.
“He’s got this certain lick that only he does,” said Homme, humming the lick. “And I was always like, ‘How?’ I said, ‘I deserve to know what that is. Because I can play [it] but there’s a way that you’re doing it.’ He’ll bend a note and then tap, like Eddie Van Halen’s tapping on the neck but he’s doing it once, and holding it. And instead of a million taps, it’s one. It was so simple I was like, ‘You’re fucking kidding me.’ [Laughs] It was so awesome.”
You can check out full conversation below and subscribe to WTF With Marc Maron here.