Have you often sat pondering on the nature of the spinning guitar? Just how did those bearded Texans manage to fashion a guitar that can not only look like livestock but that can spin as though flying? Are they some kind of black magic magicians, concocting various acts of magery and mischief out on the plains of Houston?
If any of the questions have at all plagued you at anytime, then you are in the right place, for today we will be letting Dean Zelinsky of Dean Guitars run us through the conception and creation of these now fabled furry guitars that just happen to be fleet of flight.
So, What’s the Deal?
ZZ Top were introduced to Dean Zelinsky (Dean Z Guitar), founder of Dean Guitars and progenitor of all guitar tones thick and furry:
‘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.’
And How Exactly do they Work?
‘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.’
So, there you have it! Hopefully your curiosity about these fabled spinning guitars has been readily satiated and that you are now feeling better able to answer any questions that might have subsequently arisen yourself.
FAQs ZZ Top Spinning Guitar
The music video that ZZ Top is best known for spinning their furry guitars in (and no that is not a euphemism) is the video for ‘Legs’ from their 1983 album Eliminator. The guitars within the video were specifically designed for them by Dean Zelinsky, founder of fabled guitar manufacturers Dean Guitars and all round supporter of fuzzy and unorthodox sounds.
With relative style and ease, judging by the way they themselves do it in the music video. The guitar is connected via the belt to cabling that then goes outward through the trousers and into an amplifier, thus savoring the connection between guitar and amplifier.
Though it would be impossible and apocryphal to say that Dean Zelinsky and ZZ Top outright invested the idea of guitars spinning like so, they certainly provided the most fully realized and popularly perceived version of the concept when they used a pair of Dean guitars covered in Sheep fur strapped to their belts so that they could spin by 360 degrees and back again as much as their heart’s desired.
They were known to use a whole range of guitars throughout their career, though they have been known to be particularly fond of Dean guitars, especially during the recording and touring of their 1983 album Eliminator.
Billy Gibbons uses two different guitars on the original recording of the song; the intro features a 1955 hardtail Fender Stratocaster, while the overdriven riff later in the song makes use of a 1959 Gibson “Pearly Gates” Les Paul, both sent through a 100-watt 1968 Marshall Super Lead amplifier. This serves at least to illustrate that the debate between the use of humbucker vs single coil guitars is invalid as they can both work together to serve a common goal.