Music News

Happy Birthday, Billy Gibbons!

There's no mistaking William Frederick -- better known as "Billy" -- Gibbons as one of two densely bearded front men in that Little Ole' Band from Texas, ZZ Top, a distinction he shars with bassist Dusty Hill. Never mind that beardless drummer Frank Beard has the appropriate name but lacks any actual claim to a hairy handle; ZZ Top have become as well known for their twin chins as they have for their rugged bluesy rumble. 

Born December 16, 1949, Gibbons forged an early friendship with Jimi Hendrix, leading Hendrix to tag him as the next great guitarist to watch. Gibbons' first professional outfit, The Moving Sidewalks, were contemporaries with the 13th Story Elevators, and together, the two groups helped create an original Texas-style take on '60s psychedelia.

He formed ZZ Top with Hill and Beard in 1969 and found immediate success with the albums Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres, Fandango! and El Loco, before furthering their fame after a brief hiatus in the early '80s when they regrouped and released the massive sellers Eliminator, Afterburner and Recycler.

They not only became radio staples -- courtesy of such songs as "Gimme

All Your Lovin'," "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man" -- but also MTV regulars,

thanks to their offbeat image and a somewhat sassy sense of humor. In

2004, they were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and more

recently, Gibbons himself was given the high honor of being named as the

2012 Texas State Musician by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Still, there's no escaping that unusual appendage, making him look a bit gnome-like to be sure. Yet Gibbons and his lengthy chin tresses aren't alone when it comes to sartorial splendor... which leads us to look at other artists who have employed facial hair to enhance their image. 

There's Leon Russell for example. Leon may have scored a comeback of late, thanks in large part to his pal Elton John, but when it comes to his mane - those long gray locks that meld into equally dense facial foliage -- Leon's as hairy as he is hoary. Likewise, famed producer Rick Rubin also deserves kudos for his weird beard, a massive growth that makes him look a lot like the Abominable Snowman - sans the snowy stuff of course. Of course, beards have always been an acceptable accessory in the rock world - the individual Beatles, Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Eddie Veder, Sting and Jerry Garcia all wore them at one time or another, achieving varying degrees of silliness or sophistication, depending on one'sparticular preference. 

These days facial hair is practically mandatory among the younger set as well, as evidenced by Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon, both of the Avett Brothers, and Sam Beam, AKA Iron and Wine, who was seen sporting a particularly bushy beard at the Orlando Calling Festival last month.

And let's not forget actor turned rapper Joaquin Phoenix whose bearded guise seemed... well... just plain creepy. And can anyone explain that so-called "soul patch" that Bruce Springsteen dangles from his lower lip? It kinda looks like a little caterpillar that inadvertently lost his way. 

That just proves that beards aren't ideal for everyone. For his part, Robert Plant once boasted a finely groomed goatee that had him looking a lot like Salvador Dali, while Michael Stipe resembled a demented wrestler with a full beard that stood in contrast to his chrome dome. 

Mustaches are also a part of the Rock regimen, as evidenced by the fiery Fu Manchu that adorned Frank Zappa's chiseled features, David Crosby's trademark walrus 'stache and the imposing hairy horseshoe that Lemmy has pasted over his upper lip. And what would Neil Young be without his famous mutton chop sideburns, which Elvis Presley himself could have bequeathed him once he left the building for the final time. Or maybe the King left them to Annie Lennox, who can claim the award for the strangest facial hair of all when she showed up at the 1984 Grammy Awards ceremony to sing "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" garbed like a man - complete with plastered on sideburns,and a freakish looking pompadour. Hers was clearly a case of hair today, gone tomorrow.

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Lee Zimmerman