Watch Billy F Gibbons jam Jimmy Reed’s Baby What You Want Me To Do on a Vintera II ‘70s Tele Deluxe with Matt Sweeney, Danielle Haim and Tim Montana

Billy F Gibbons and the BFGs
(Image credit: Fender / YouTube)

Billy F Gibbons has drafted an all-star team of BFGs for a super-groovy cover of Jimmy Reed’s 1959 hit Baby What You Want Me To Do and Fender has shot the performance for posterity – and, okay, to promote its Vintera II series.

For long-time Gibbons / ZZ Top fans (one and the same, surely), this is essential viewing. Jimmy Reed was one of the players to give Gibbons the bug, and that sense of groove that’s keeping this track moving, and Gibbons is having plenty of fun paying tribute to a primary influence. So much fun there’s even some processing on his vocals which gives it that weird inter-dimensional quality.

Armed with a Vintera II ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe in Vintage White, Gibbons was joined in the studio by Danielle Haim on drums, Tim Montana shaking the maracas, with Matt Sweeney joining him on electric guitar – Sweeney also choosing a Fender Telecaster

The production values give the game away; this is a ‘70s update on the classic shuffle, and a track whose chord progression is a little spicier than your average I-IV-V.

Fender Vintera II

(Image credit: Fender)

All of this might have been shot to showcase the Vintera II Telecaster but Gibbons has no need to avail himself of its tremolo. The whammy bar sat the session out. But the Big F’s instincts that Gibbons could coax some primo tones out of its vintage-inspired unit shifter proved correct.

Gibbons and Sweeney have bonded over the merits of Mr Jimmy Reed before, specificially when the ZZ Top frontman was on Sweeney’s Guitar Moves YouTube show in 2013.

Sweeney posted a clip of that exchange to his Instagram account [see above] where Gibbons explains the musical ins and outs and unorthodoxy of Reed’s famous turnaround in A. “Why was it always in A?” asks Sweeney, even when the E-A-B / I-IV-V progression winds up in B? Well, it worked, and that’s all that matters.

“A is kinda the simplest. I learned from Jimmy Reed,” says Gibbons, playing a I-IV-V shuffle. “It’s so wrong it’s right.”

Speaking to MusicRadar in 2011, Gibbons listed Reed’s 1961 live album, Jimmy Reed At Carnegie Hall, as one of his 10 favourite blues albums of all time – even if it wasn’t actually recorded at Carnegie Hall, a fact that tickled Gibbons. 

Reed’s chemistry with Eddie Taylor was undeniable. As it should be; having taught himself to play, it was Taylor who then taught Reed. 

“Musically, somebody might listen to this and go, ‘Oh, that’s just three-chord stuff.’ But the complexity that takes place between the exchange of Eddie Taylor and Jimmy Reed is fascinating,” said Gibbons. “A Mississippi mystery. Even though they’re playing two entirely different figures, it all meshes in a way that makes it impossible to figure out who’s playing what. I think this record influenced many, many guitarists. Check it out, it’s a party!”

So too is this Jimmy Reid cover. Check it out above. And read MusicRadar’s review of the Vintera II ‘60s Telecaster that Sweeney is playing in the video.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.