When ZZ Top’s Elwood Francis pulled out a bright-yellow 17-string bass during their November 5 gig in Huntsville, Alabama, the guitar world went nuts.
It was difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of the behemoth, which was used for 1983’s Got Me Under Pressure – sure, it had a Fender logo on its headstock, but there’s no way that’s genuine.
But now, thanks to a social media exchange between Francis and YouTube guitar titan Jared Dines following the gig, the story of the monstrous instrument has been made clearer.
After catching wind of Francis playing the bass, Dines took to social media to note its similarities with his Ormsby 18-string guitar, which he commissioned back in 2018.
“I can’t with this…” Dines wrote. “When ZZ Top uses a ripoff version of my 18-string guitar from some website. It even has ‘JD’ on the 12th fret, LOL.”
Shortly thereafter, Francis posted a response on Instagram, confirming that the 17-string was, indeed, a derivative of Dines’ Ormsby 18-string.
“I thought I’d use this bass once or twice for no other reason than amusement,” the bassist wrote. “It’s such a strikingly absurd instrument. We’d all laugh and then move on to something else.
“However, it’s gotten too much attention to not talk about the guy that actually came up with the idea: Jared Dines. The bass I play is a Chinese-made POS. It’s a mid copy of something he plays and he’s probably all pissed off.
“I don’t know if he designed it but the cat’s an amazing musician and sees me playing simple-ass bass lines that I could play with one string, while he has worked up music to make use of the damn thing. Dude has moved beyond the 17-string and I’d suggest checking him out just to see what he does with it. I just hope he has a sense of humor.”
Clearly appreciative of the shoutout, Dines was quick to dispel any rumors of beef between the pair, commenting on Francis’s post: “Not pissed at all! I thought the picture of you playing it was photoshopped at first. I love that it’s real! Guitars are modified and remade all the time, I’m glad you had fun with it.”
Rounding out the exchange, Francis responded: “Dude, I cannot believe you play these things! We thought it was a joke but then [found] out about you and watched some videos. Bravo motherfucker! The joke’s on me ‘cause I have to play that bootleg piece of shit.”
In the comments section of his Instagram posts on the instrument, Francis explained that the guitar features three sets of regular bass strings and one set of five-string strings, of which he only uses three: two Es and an A. Indeed, if you look closely, you'll note that most of the instrument‘s middle strings are muted by a strip of foam on the guitar‘s bridge.
After unveiling his 18-string Ormsby in 2018, Jared Dines upped the ante in 2021 with a fully functional 20-string Mountain Dew-themed meme guitar.
Elwood Francis joined ZZ Top following the death of the band’s longtime bassist, Dusty Hill. As frontman Billy Gibbons explained last year, Francis’s recruitment was the “direct directive from Mr. Dusty Hill”.
“When he grabbed my arm and said, ‘I think I'm due to go visit the physician to see if I can bounce back,’ he said, ‘In the meantime, I want you to grab our guitar technician, Mr. Elwood, and take him out of that tech station and strap him up with my guitar and make him carry on with every single note,’” Gibbons recalled.