On View March 27 through July 3, 2022

Guitarist Billy Gibbons Has Been Making Texas History Since 1969

What most people fail to recognize is that Texas has always been at the forefront of Billy Gibbons’ musical styling and lyrics. The songs penned by Gibbons’, especially those written in the 1970s, serve as rock n’ roll Texas history lessons set to some of the most iconic soundtracks. In this exhibit, you will enjoy some of Billy Gibbons’ personal equipment and learn how some of the most famous lyrics from his music directly relate to the history of Texas.


Born on December 16, 1949, and raised in Houston, Texas, William Frederick Gibbons grew up in a home that favored both classical and country sounds. However, Gibbons soon became enamored with rock & roll. It wasn’t long before he discovered early rock & rollers such as Elvis Presley and Little Richard, as well as bluesmen Jimmy Reed on local radio stations. Soon after receiving a Gibson Melody Maker electric guitar and a Fender Champ amp for Christmas in 1963, Gibbons began emulating his heroes and forming his first band, the Saints, when he was only14. He later joined a group in the mid-’60s called the Coachmen, who specialized in more psychedelic-based sounds, inspired by acts like Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and the 13th Floor Elevators. The Coachmen eventually changed their name to the Moving Sidewalks.

1963 Gibson Melody Maker received as a Christmas present by Billy F Gibbons from his parents in 1963. The following year, Billy started his first band, The Saints.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons in San Antonio, 1979.

Photo taken in 1968 with Jimi Hendrix with The Moving Sidewalks, Fort Worth, Texas, 1968 (left to right): Keyboardist Tom Moore, Jimi Hendrix, Bassist Don Summers, guitarist and lead singer Billy Gibbons and drummer Dan Mitchell. 
Billy Gibbons Stage Apparel: The George Jones Band bus and the Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys bus at The Broken Spoke
The fashion stylings of Billy Gibbons on stage over the years featuring Nudie Cohn originals.


When the Moving Sidewalks folded in 1969, Gibbons sought to form a more straight-ahead, boogie/blues-rock-based band, and after hooking up with a pair of other fellow Texans, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard, ZZ Top were born. The power trio slowly but steadily built up a solid following, largely due to Gibbons’ tasty guitar playing and muscular riffs. The group was responsible for some of MTV’s most popular video clips of all time. Gibbons released his first-ever solo project, “Perfectamundo,” in November 2015. This was closely followed by follow-up solo albums, “The Big Bad Blues (2018) and “Hardware” (2021).

Texas History Song List

La Grange

Edna Milton, The Last Madam of the Chicken Ranch celebrating the opening of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” on Broadway

Fayette County was established in 1837 from land given by Bastrop and Colorado Counties. It is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who became an American Revolutionary War hero. (Its county seat is La Grange, TX.) The Chicken Ranch – The Chicken Ranch was an illegal brothel in the U.S. state of Texas that operated from 1905 until 1973. It was in Fayette County, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east of downtown La Grange. The business served as the basis for the 1973 hit song, “La Grange”, and the 1978 Broadway musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, as well as its 1982 film adaptation.

Heard It On The X

In 1964, Wolfman Jack became a popular personality on XERF-AM. Word of mouth quickly spread the news about the provocative Wolfman and his nonconformist style – the kind of style that horrified parents, making it all the more appealing to a growing legion of young followers.

This song is a tribute to the “Border Blaster” radio stations in Mexico, specifically the two that were run by the famous disc jockey Wolfman Jack, XERF in Via Acuna, (near Del Rio, Texas), and XERB, (in Rosarito Beach near Tijuana). Mexican radio stations did not have to adhere to the power limits of US stations, which gave them the ability to pump their signal well into the States. Billy Gibbons explained in a 1985 interview with Spin magazine: “All Mexican stations’ call letters begin with X. The X stations used to be heard everywhere because of their enormous power. The Mexican government granted licenses with no wattage ceiling. The US, back in the ’20s, established 50,000 watts as the maximum. WLS in Chicago is 50,000 watts, and you can hear it like a police call in Houston. I’m sure 500,000 watts you can pick up here in Canada. You can probably pick up XERF. It was just outrageous. You could pick it up everywhere and we’d go. And it would bury everything else. KDRC in Houston was on a close frequency, and they would get stomped on. They had to move. XERF is 1570 on the dial. I think that remains the most powerful station.”


Interior of the Balinese Room. The Balinese Room was known for its extravagant décor, fine dining and big entertainers. It attracted high rollers from all over the country.

The Balinese Room was a famous nightclub in Galveston, Texas, United States built on a pier stretching 600 feet (183 m) from the Galveston Seawall over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For decades a dance hall and illegal casino, the Balinese Room was remodeled and reopened briefly in 2001 as a restaurant/dancehall before being destroyed again during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Operated by Sicilian barbers-turned-bootleggers Sam and Rosario Maceo, the Balinese Room (also known as Maceo’s Grotto) was an elite spot in the 1930s and 1940s (Galveston’s open era), featuring entertainment by Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, George Burns, The Marx Brothers, and other top acts of the day. Patrons of the private club included Howard Hughes, Sophie Tucker, and wealthy oil barons from nearby Houston. In 1997, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Scenes like the one pictured above depict captured Texians being brought before a Mexican firing squad for execution. As they were considered to be terrorists, no trials took place before a sentence of death was carried out.

“Degüello” means “decapitation” or, idiomatically, when something is said to be done “a degüello”, it means “no quarter” in Spanish (as in, “no surrender to be given or accepted—a fight to the death”).

This term was denoted in the Mexican Army in the form of a bugle call notable in the US for its use as a march during the 1836 Siege and Battle of the Alamo to signal that the defenders of the garrison would receive no quarter by the attacking Mexican Army under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

In the case of the siege of the Alamo, the call was accompanied by the raising of a red triangle-shaped flag intended to signal both the Mexican soldiers, and those under siege, that there would be no prisoners taken after the battle had ended.