ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons Discusses His New Gibson Billy Gibbons SG Model — Video

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2015 at 2:28pm

Gibson and Billy Gibbons have teamed up to create the new Gibson BGSG—as in “Billy Gibbons SG.”

The platform for the BGSG is a classic 1961 SG, but there are radical differences. The most obvious is the guitar’s top, which is raised on its upper two-thirds with a curve just below the whammy bar that recalls the smooth lines of the classic cars that Gibbons is so found of — very much like the swell of a vintage Cadillac’s elegant tail fin. The golden lacquer is a classic auto paint shade and is applied to the guitar’s hollowed mahogany in the traditional way while the plating is done using the PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) method ensuring a scratch-resistant finish and less tarnishing.

The neck is mahogany, for excellent resonance, with a rosewood fingerboard and a rounded Gibson Flying V style headstock. It’s all decked with matching gold hardware, including the sideways vibrato arm.

Under the hood, the BGSG is powered by a pair of Gibbon’s signature Seymour Pearly Gates humbucking pickups. Two speed dials control the volume of each pickup, and there’s a third dial for tone.

Each hardshell case has been hand-painted by Nashville-based artist James Willis, a former artist-in-residence at the Gibson Custom Shop. His Texas themed work atop the cases includes the Alamo, the “yellow rose of Texas,” armadillos, a cow skull and a rendering of the guitar inside. And each BGSG comes with a certificate of authenticity that’s a brass plate with white etching in a leather binder.

The instrument is part of an exclusive arrangement with Neiman Marcus, which will include the BGSG in its winter holiday catalog. So far only two of these BGSG beauties have been hand-built by the Gibson Custom Shop.

Here’s Gibbons himself answering a few questions about his new signature Gibson model.

How did you initially conceive of the BFG-61?
“The BFG-61 came about following discovery in Paris of a mint example of the transition Les Paul produced in 1961. [At that point, these guitars sported the SG body style and electronics array, but still had the name ‘Les Paul’ on their headstocks.] The feel of the instrument maintained power and balance and the sound was right. That ignited my resurgence in interest of the guitar’s glamorous appeal.”

Why the sideways vibrato arm? It's such a seemingly esoteric touch.
“The Gibson Vibrola, known by its other various nicknames, ‘sideways vibrato’ or, simply, ‘the hydraulic,’ is an unusual feature that actually works nicely as a mild effect. This contemporary version provides an improved functionality without disturbing the intrigue of its authentic deco design.”

How did your interest in vintage and hot-rodded gas burners influence the design and appointments for the guitar?
“The color combination is purely entrenched in the hot-rod and custom car phenomena from the ’50s and ’60s. The French carved contour across the top encouraged the enhancing effect of a two-tone finish. Add the mysterious visual of what lurks under the bonnet of the Vibrola cover and the dramatic appeal is complete.”

Why an SG, verses a Les Paul, Explorer or other classic Gibson body platform?
“The elegance and grace of the compound radius lines of the original guitar lent itself toward customizing and, at the same time, included features that are to be found on previous Gibson production models. Something old, something new.”

Why the elegantly streamlined tone and volume controls?
“As mentioned, a few previous Gibson production models made practical use of identifying the function of the control knobs. The straight-ahead assignment of one master tone control allows a personalized blend between the twin pickups found on the BFG-61. It’s another example of Gibson's ‘less-is-more’ greatness.”

In the video below, Gibbons and his tech Elwood take DunlopTV’s Bryan Kehoe backstage to show off a few of the guitars that he used on ZZ Top’s tour in support of their La Futura album.

Included are a John Bolin guitar with a chambered body, neck and headstock, a Gibson recreation of Billy’s famous “Pearly Gates” Les Paul, and one of his furry Gretsch guitars in the rectangular Bo Diddley shape, among several others.

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