Published on May 22, 2013
Though he may not be your typical hard rock high note aficionado, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and The Moving Sidewalks is one vocalist who is far more versatile than a lot of people would estimate. He naturally has a VERY low voice, which he has begun to showcase in his music fairly regularly since the 1990s, especially when speaking dramatically during live performances. All the same, however, he's always had a very solid fourth octave range throughout his career. At times, he even ventures into the fifth octave, but the majority of the notes he hits up there tend to be short yelps or weak ad-lips. Only occasionally does Gibbons actually demonstrate quality singing above B4. Beyond that, though, he also has an extensive whistle register that he frequently uses for vocal ad-libs. Yet the one thing that has always impressed me about Gibbons' singing is the number of different ways he can get his voice to sound throughout his range. He can sing like a gruff, gravely bluesman, a light, clean rock tenor, a scratchy Axl Rose-esque head voice wailer, and most everything in between. There are some ZZ Top songs that fool people into thinking the band's tenor bassist, Dusty Hill, is singing lead, just because Gibbons lightens his voice to the point of sounding like a completely different person on them. All in all, he has a lot more to offer as a vocalist than most would expect.
1. 0:00 - Easy low singing down to D2 from "Beatbox", along with some vocal fry bottoming at G1.
2. 0:16 - The classic intro of "La Grange", performed live in Texas in 2007. Here, Gibbons sings some very strong D2s and a couple C2s, and also speaks a solid A1.
3. 0:42 - A strong D2 and B1 from "Crunchy".
4. 0:52 - A cool spoken passage around B1 from "My Mind Is Gone".
5. 0:59 - B♭1s from "Lovething", with an easy line on G♯4 preceding them.
6. 1:06 - Strong low singing from "Liquor", bottoming at some very impressive melodic B♭1s!
7. 1:44 - A solid A1 from "Dreadmonboogaloo", which echoes at lower pitches right after. A brief yelped D5 precedes this.
8. 1:49 - Some boomy talk-singing from "Tramp", hitting lots of casual D2s, some C2s, and an A1.
9. 2:30 - A strong G1 from a live cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady".
10 .2:35 - A beefy spoken lows on G1 from "Everything".
11. 2:41 - Humming between C2 and B♭1 from "Me So Stupid", followed by a spoken B♭1.
12. 2:47 - The beginning of a dramatic spoken passage from "Blue Jeans Blues" live at le Zénith in 2009, where Gibbons casually slides down to two strong A1s and a very resonant F1!
13. 3:13 - Skipping ahead to the end of that passage, we have Gibbons sliding down to a monstrous F1! Amazing live projection!
14. 3:19 - To compare, here's the ending of the same passage from a performance of "Blue Jeans Blues" live in Texas 2007, where Gibbons hits another strong F1!
15. 3:25 - A clip from earlier in the same performance of the song, where Gibbons introduces it while sliding down to a G♯1.
16. 3:30 - To start off the high notes, we have some very nice clean singing around G♯4 from "Lovething".
17. 3:49 - An easy line on G♯4 from "Hairdresser".
18. 3:58 - Some well-supported and controlled A4s from "36-22-36".
19. 4:14 - Some very tasteful singing up to A4 from "I Need You Tonight". I love it when Gibbons sings with this kind of clean tone on highs!
20. 4:44 - Light melody singing around A4 and up to B♭4 from "I Got the Message". Pretty neat tone here too.
21. 5:06 - A strong B♭4 from "Sleeping Bag", another great song to showcase Gibbons' clean higher singing.
22. 5:14 - Some emotional and surprisingly easy B4s from "2000 Blues".
23. 5:37 - A cool belted B4 from "She's Just Killing Me".
24. 5:45 - A slide from an A4 up to C5 from "Zipper Job".
25. 5:50 - Here we have Gibbons pulling out all the stops and singing an entire melody between A4 and C5! Song is "Bad Girl".
26. 6:20 - A strikingly effortless D5 from "Backdoor Love Affair", followed by some squeaky whistle notes topping at E6.
27. 6:32 - A sustained D5 from a cover of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand"!
28. 6:39 - A very pleasant and nicely sustained E5 from one of ZZ Top's most famous songs, "Legs".
29. 6:47 - A gritty F5 from "What Are You Going to Do".
30. 6:52 - And now for the big surprise: a powerful sung G5 from the "99th Floor" demo!
31. 7:00 - An impressive whistle F6. From "Blue Jeans Blues" live in Texas 2007 -- a performance that spans five octaves of vocal range in total!
32. 7:14 - A strong whistle F6 from "Breakaway"
33. 7:20 - A nicely controlled whistle F♯6 from the intro of "Dusted".
34. 7:29 - A short but solid whistle B6 from "Prettyhead".