The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Born February 20, 1948
Bands X, Billy Zoom Band
Iconic Guitar Gretsch Silver Jet
Coolest Riff “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline”—Los Angeles (X)
As guitarist for the seminal punk band X, Billy Zoom played a key role in launching the L.A. punk scene in the late Seventies. His raw-nerved guitar work with X drew heavily on Fifties rockabilly, spelling out the connection between punk rock and the original rock and roll music.
But Zoom also served as the perfect foil for X’s principal songwriters, singer Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe, who were arty, bohemian denizens of hip L.A. environs like Silverlake and Venice. Zoom was a politically conservative Christian greaser from the notoriously uncool southern L.A. suburbs of Orange County. In the now-classic L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, he is famously shown refusing to get a tattoo.
But opposites not only attract—sometimes they also make groundbreaking music together. This is certainly true of Zoom’s collaboration with Doe and Cervenka. Since that band broke up, Zoom has gone on to do session work with everyone from the late John Denver to the Raconteurs. He’s also become semi-legendary as a guitar amp hotrod guru, having tweaked circuitry for Jackson Browne, the Black Crowes, Los Lobos, L7 and Social Distortion, among many others.