The Story Behind ZZ Top's Spinning Fur Guitars

Remember ZZ Top's iconic spinning fur guitars? I'm talking, of course, about those now-famous hirsute twirling axes—a guitar and a bass—that appear in the band's 1983 "Legs" music video. They were built by Dean Zelinsky, founder of Dean Guitars and the man behind Dean Zelinsky Private Label Guitars.

Fairly recently, Zelinsky opened up about the furry guit-fiddles on his website, deanzelinsky.com, and in one of his newsletters.

"[ZZ Top's] Billy Gibbons and I were introduced in the late Seventies through a mutual friend," Zelinsky wrote. "One day I said, 'How about I build you a guitar?' Billy was receptive and we worked out the details for a custom Wine Red ML. Yes, in the early Eighties even Billy Gibbons had a Dean ML.

"One day I'm hanging in Los Angeles and [I] receive a call from Billy. In his Southern drawl he says, 'I’m in the studio using the Dean ML and it’s sounding incredible!' He asked me to re-route my flight home and come hear the record. I flew to Houston and listened to the Eliminator record in Billy’s SL Mercedes. It was still in the rough and not a final mix yet. I remember hearing 'Legs' before the keyboard sequencer was added, and something about that raw mix made the guitar tones sound even better. Gibbons told me he did the whole Eliminator record using his Dean ML.

"Soon after the record was released, Billy tells me [ZZ Top] were gearing up for a tour. I suggested we build custom guitars for the tour and once again, Billy was receptive. ... One night, I received a 3 a.m. phone call; it's Gibbons. ... At the end of the conversation, he drops the line, 'I’m sending you some sheepskins I purchased in Scotland, I want you to put them on some guitars.'

"I made a matching pair—a Dean Z guitar and bass—painted them white, including the fingerboards, painted the Eliminator logo down the necks and applied the sheepskins. I cleared a path down the center with an electric horse sheers to accept the pickups, tailpiece and strings. I remember we were still gluing the fur on the tuning keys when the FedEx driver showed up to pick up the guitars. He waited while we boxed them up; they had to make it to the video shoot the very next day."

And the rest is rock and roll history.

For the complete Billy Gibbons blog post, more Zelinsky news (including an interesting tidbit involving Zakk Wylde), blogs and videos, head here.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.