ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons is the coolest rock star on the planet. Boogie rock icon, god-level guitarist, Olympic-standard raconteur, sharp-dressed man, purveyor of a range of damn fine hot sauces – he’s got it all covered.
Don’t just take our word for it. Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen agrees. The industrial metal kingpin with a face like an accident in a staplegun factory and this bearded southern gent have an unlikely friendship that stretches back more than 30 years.
“He is the charming Texas gentleman,” Al told Classic Rock in 2021. “He is just so fucking classy, so smooth, so suave.”
Not quite. The two men have played together plenty over the last 30 years, and they’ve partied together plenty too. And Al Jourgensen could be the only man to see Billy Gibbons crawling around on his knees, puking all over the floor.
The pair met in Gibbons’ hometown of Houston in 1990, when Jourgensen’s other band, Revolting Cocks, were soundchecking at a local club named Numbers. As a long-haired hesher kid growing up in Colorado in the 70s, Al had loved ZZ Top. And now the guy who owned Numbers was telling him that Billy Gibbons was outside and he wanted to meet him.
“He pulled up in a 1934 Mercury, wearing a white suit,” recalled Jourgensen. “Me and Mikey [Scaccia, RevCo guitarist] got in and we were just flabbergasted: ‘It’s Billy fucking Gibbons, in a white suit, with the beard, in the middle of the day.’”
Gibbons told them he was a fan. “I love what you’re doing,” he said to the pair. “I want to take you out to dinner.”
“I was speechless,” Jourgensen told Classic Rock. “I didn't know what to say. We just piled into the back seat and sat there like zipped crickets while his driver took us to the restaurant.”
As they ate, Al’s curiosity got the better of him. “I finally asked him: ‘Why are we here?’ And he goes: ‘Well, I figure I owe you a dinner, because my career kind of hit a rough patch there, but now we’re selling records hand over fist,’” Jourgensen recalled Gibbons telling him. “‘The reason is because we switched over to programmed drums, and all the drum samples we got were from Ministry and Revolting Cocks songs.’
“We just freaked out, it was such a rock-god moment. With all the egos and lawyers in the music business, it was pretty ballsy of him to say: ‘Yeah, I just ripped off all your shit, I’m gonna buy you dinner.’ That was good enough for me.”
Fast forward a decade or so. Gibbons made a stop off Sonic Ranch studio near El Paso, where Jourgensen was recording a new Revolting Cocks album. On the spur of the moment, Al invited the ZZ Top man to play guitar on a couple of tracks (the two songs, Prune Tang and Pole Grinder, eventually appeared on RevCo’s 2006 album Cocked And Loaded). When they’d done, everybody decided to let their hair down.
“The wine cellar there has bottles that are worth literally fifty thousand, a hundred thousand dollars,” said Jourgensen. “We broke those out that night and got shit-faced. Billy had brought a big-ass bag of hatch chiles from New Mexico, so we were drinking ridiculously expensive wine and having this chilli-eating competition. That’s the one time I’ve seen him not so suave, cos he got down on all fours and puked all over.”
The image of Billy Gibbons, epitome of cool, crawling drunkenly on his hands and knees, is one few people get to see. But Jourgensen wanted to make one thing clear: “He never puked on his beard. That beard is like Teflon. It won’t accept spaghetti sauce and it won’t accept puke.”