Legendary as it is, the rock community has for years been fooled into thinking Billy Gibbons' beard is a mere statement piece. But according to Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, it actually once helped the ZZ Top leader play a harmonic on his guitar.
In a new interview with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast, Homme remembers the sessions for QOTSA's Lullabies to Paralyze in 2004, and recruiting Gibbons for some guest playing. He recalls getting the bearded one into the studio with the promise of recording a cover of ZZ Top's Precious and Grace.
“For me, that was one of the huge moments of my career,” Homme says. “Really, at the time he hadn't really jammed with many outsiders in years, and luckily there were some people at his management who were into Queens. I got him in there under the guise of doing Precious and Grace but then I said, ‘But I have this thing...”
After the Precious and Grace cover was recorded – with Gibbons on co-lead vocals with the late Mark Lanegan – Homme and Gibbons set to work recording a QOTSA original, Burn The Witch, and a strange thing happened when the ZZ Top man attempted the guitar solo.
He continues: “When he was playing the lead on that song, his beard gently floated down and hit the strings and it made a harmonic with his beard. I swear. It's on film. And I literally grabbed him by the shoulders, I'm shaking Billy Gibbons, ‘Dude, you did the first ever beard harmonic!”
Elsewhere in the interview, the QOTSA frontman says that during the same sessions he asked Gibbons how he executed one of his signature licks.
“He's got this certain lick that only he does,” Homme continues. “And I was always like, ‘How?’ I said, ‘I deserve to know what that is. Because I can play [it] but there's a way that you're doing it.’
“He'll bend a note and then tap, like Eddie Van Halen's tapping on the neck but he's doing it once, and holding it. And instead of a million taps, it's one. It was so simple I was like, ‘You're fucking kidding me.’ [laughs] It was so awesome.”