For nearly 50 years, Billy Gibbons has been one of the greatest living preservers of American blues music. Mostly through his work with legendary Texas boogie kings ZZ Top, Gibbons is a living encyclopedia of classic blues players who had managed to carve out his own unique sound. In that way, he’s not all that different from another instantly-identifiable blues lifer, Keith Richards.
Despite being raised on a combination of Elmore James and Jimmy Reed-type blues mixed with the American psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix and Roky Erickson, Gibbons still cited Richards as his favourite guitarist when asked by Elmore Magazine back in 2018.
“Keith Richards – it’s incredible to think that the Stones, Keith, these guys were sort of heroes of mine when I was starting out and they’re now friends,” Gibbons explained. “They rescued US blues music with their work, bringing the music back home to the USA and giving the original US bluesmen a career and recognition.”
“Oh, it’s slamming, he’s still on it,” Gibbons extolled about Richards to former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones in 2007, via Rock and Roll Garage. “We did a couple of appearances last November, we played at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. He (Keith) said ‘Can I stand next to you?’ And he said ‘Can I play as loud as you?’ I said ‘I can’t play as loud as you!’ (laughs) He goes ‘Let’s turn it up!’ (laughs). So it was great, he is a dear friend and he is the character, he is the barbaric pirate.”
Richards had been the one to induct ZZ Top into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame back in 2004, and the connection between the two great blues scholars was solidified from then on. During his speech, Richards complimented ZZ Top’s consistency and longevity over the course of 40 years of music and noted their shared connection to the blues that continues to this day.
Listen to Gibbons gushing over Richards and Mick Jagger in a radio interview down below.