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ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons Goes Down Memory Lane with Moving Sidewalks

APF, Austin Psych Fest, Billy Gibbons, Billy Gibbons interview, The Moving Sidewalks, The Moving Sidewalks interview

Before ZZ Top, there was Billy GibbonsThe Moving Sidewalks. The psychedelic, blues-rock band consisted of Don Summers, Dan Mitchell, Tom Moore and Gibbons. The Moving Sidewalks played alongside greats such as Jimi Hendrix and The Doors but had its career cut short when Summers and Moore were drafted into the United States Army. At that point, Gibbons and Mitchell added Lanier Greig and formed the original ZZ Top.

It’s been over 40 years since The Moving Sidewalks has performed together, but this year the band reunited and will take the stage at Austin Psych Fest on Sunday, April 28.

The Spec had the opportunity to interview legendary guitarist Billy Gibbons, find out a stand-out moment in his career, his all-time favorite musicians, the best advice he’s been given and more…

Moving Sidewalks was your first serious band that recorded one full-length album and several singles but was seemingly cut short. How much, if at all, do you think that your vision with that band manifested in ZZ Top?
To some extent, ZZ Top was a continuation of what was begun with the Moving Sidewalks, but there were important differences. We got more blues infused and the fact that we were a trio made things more spare and focused. We had to compensate for the fact that we didn’t have Tom Moore‘s B-3 organ underlying what were were doing so the emphasis shifted quite a bit.

ZZ Top is still alive and well, what made you resurrect Moving Sidewalks after so long and how has the reception been?
All the band members remained close and the release of The Complete Collection catalyzed the offer for us to regather at New York‘s Cavestomp. Seemed like it would be the thing to do and it certainly was.

How did you come up with the name Moving Sidewalks?
They were big news back in the mid-1960s… escalators that were horizontal — seems like a psychedelic idea on a certain level and, in a way, a tip of the hat to our favorite psychedelic Texas brethren, The 13th Floor Elevators.

Music has been a part of your life since an early age, did you aspire to be a professional musician? When did you know that you were destined to make music?
My mom took my sister and me to see Elvis Presley when I was about seven or eight years old. I didn’t think I could be Elvis, but I did like the idea of making music for a whole crowd of people. Might be genetic — my dad was a bandleader.

You have been in the industry for a long time and received numerous honors over the years, what is one of the stand-out moments in your career?
Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Keith Richards. That’s the pinnacle by any standard.

What does it feel like to return to Texas, where the band got its start 44 years ago? Does this show carry any more weight/meaning because of that fact?
Yes, it’s loaded with emotional and cultural overtones. This is where it all began and now, after 44 long years, we’re back doing it again. No two ways, that’s a ‘heavy’ circumstance.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musicians?
Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimi Hendrix, Hubert Sumlin, Freddie King, Albert King, B.B. King. See a trend there?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been giving?
Keep playing and then play some more.

People around the world know and love you for being The Reverend Willy G. with a big beard and and a leading lady named Pearly Gates, what is something your fans would be surprised to know about the man Billy Gibbons?
That he collects African art and spends the little free time on the road racing radio controlled cars against Frank [Beard] and Dusty [Hill] in venue parking lots.

What bands are you looking forward to seeing/playing with at Psych Fest?
First and foremost, Roky Erickson, our 13th Floor Elevators inspiration…if it hadn’t been for Roxy we might be doing something quite differently! The idea of Quintron and Miss Pussycat is intriguing and they’re from New Orleans so they’ve gotta be out there. The Raveonettes from Denmark are cool and, of course, so are Os Mutantes, Brazil‘s own psych standard bearers… Looking forward to so much. It’ll be rockin’…!


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