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The Cowcaster Guitar Is a Texas-Size Tribute to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons

The Cowcaster is guaranteed to turn heads. That’s because it is one.

The one-of-a-kind guitar, designed and built by artist Brent Gandy of Amarillo, Texas, brims with custom features—from Von Dutch–style pin striping on the back of the neck to a hand-carved bull’s head headstock—all of which are connected to an authentic bull skull.

“I’ve been messing with bull skulls since I was little kid,” says Gandy, the ranch-raised son of a former professional bull rider.

“My brother and I would put bull heads in ant beds, and the ants would clean them down to the bone.” Gandy, who runs an auto body shop, began creating works of art with the skulls, polishing them with the same process he employs to finish cars and inlaying the natural indentations with turquoise.

But with the Cowcaster, a bovine ode to his idol, fellow Texan Billy Gibbons, Gandy cranked things up a notch. Along with friend and guitar builder Bud Herber, he put together a wish list of Gibbons-preferred components and specs. Then the duo went to work.

“We knew Billy used Seymour Duncan BG-1400 Pearly Gates pickups, so we called and spoke to Maricela Juarez,” says Gandy, referring to Seymour Duncan’s custom shop manager. “She said she was winding two Pearly Gates pickups for Billy. We asked her to wind a third for us.”

The 11-pound guitar has a beefy Warmoth maple neck with a “boat-neck” profile, 22 stainless frets, abalone inlays and Steinberger gearless tuners. Other features include abalone-capped volume and tone knobs and a billet aluminum spine to support the neck. This raging bull blows smoke from its nose and ears, and its eyes and nose light up with red LEDs.

So how does it sound? “Badass,” Gandy says. “It’s throaty and has lots of sustain. Because of the pine body that’s integrated into the skull, it resonates like no other guitar.”

Photo: Ralph Duke

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Damian Fanelli
Damian Fanelli

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.