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Billy Gibbons on new single: ‘It’s like, I’m the new surf guitarist’

Updated April 5, 2021 - 4:45 pm

John Payne had a favor to ask of Billy F. Gibbons a few days ago. Would he be willing to sing a few ZZ Top songs at a private party in Dallas?

Maybe a dozen?

“He was totally fine with it, he said, ‘We’ll make it easy on us and the band and do the stuff we know,’” said Payne, the front man of Asia featuring John Payne and a Vegas resident. “So we went in and played and he was so, so great. Humble, sweet, we had an absolutely great time.”

The event on March 27 was at Virgin Hotel Dallas, arranged by Dallas businessman Dave Stickland for his wife, Aundrea’s, 50th birthday. Payne and Gibbons had not met until the day of rehearsals, or a day before the show. Initially, Lou Gramm of Foreigner was also scheduled to sing in the show, but was forced out by illness.

Gibbons had anticipated singing just a handful of songs, but did a deep dive into ZZ Top’s hits with “Sharp Dressed Man,” “La Grange,” “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.”

It was a good workout for Gibbons, ahead of ZZ Top’s five dates at The Venetian Theatre beginning Oct. 8. The band is about finished with its first album since 2012’s “La Futura.” Meantime, Gibbons’ latest solo single, “West Coast Junkie,” was out March 25, from his upcoming “Hardware” album, due the first week of June. The song carries a distinct surf-music atmosphere.

“It’s like, I’m the new surf guitarist,” Gibbons said. “Others who have heard the song are telling me that, too.”

The Dallas show’s lineup was an eclectic mix of contemporary-music artists. The party also featured Coolio (of North Las Vegas these days) Tone Loc and Young MC. Payne’s Asia outfit included keyboardist Jamie Hosmer, drummer Johnny Fedevich, guitarist Moni Scaria and singer Carol-Lyn Liddle-Puffer.

Payne’s next big private gig is April 24, Alice Cooper’s “Coopstock” benefit show for the Solid Rock Teen Center program in Mesa, Ariz. Graham and Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer are also on the bill.

Hosmer, a member of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, was impressed at simply sharing the stage with guitar legend, Gibbons.

“He walks into the room, and you just say, ‘OK, he’s a rock star,’” Hosmer said. “It’s like, you need no further explanation. He just carries that vibe.”

Gibbons made an unexpected request at the start of the performance, to have the floor monitors taken off the stage. Gibbons doesn’t use “in-ear” monitors, and Payne was concerned he would not hear any of the performance. But Gibbons went old-school with the sound, hearing it from the back.

“He wanted everyone to be able to see his shoes,” Payne said, laughing. “So we pulled them off the stage.” The sharp-dressed man had made the call.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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