'Gimme All Your Lovin': Abilene fans welcome back Texas' own ZZ Top, surprise guest

·2 min read
You know that beard and those cheap (maybe not) sunglasses. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons brought the hits and the cool to the stage Tuesday evening at the Taylor County Coliseum.
You know that beard and those cheap (maybe not) sunglasses. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons brought the hits and the cool to the stage Tuesday evening at the Taylor County Coliseum.

"Did you miss me, Abilene?"

That question Tuesday evening could've come from Billy Gibbons, who last was in Abilene in 2015 with his band, ZZ Top.

Instead, it came from Ted Nugent, who surprised the crowd at the Taylor County Coliseum when he dashed on stage, dressed in a camo shirt and wearing a camo hat, to join opening act Tim Montana and his band for the rocker's classic hit "Cat Scratch Fever."

No one who bought a ticket to Tuesday's ZZ Top concert in Abilene expected to see Ted Nugent or hear the rocker play "Cat Scratch Fever." "Did you miss me, Abilene?" he asked, all smiles.
No one who bought a ticket to Tuesday's ZZ Top concert in Abilene expected to see Ted Nugent or hear the rocker play "Cat Scratch Fever." "Did you miss me, Abilene?" he asked, all smiles.

Nugent is famous for his line "when in doubt, I whip it out" from "Free-for-All," and fans did just that Tuesday. As they roared their approval, they whipped out their cellphones to record the moment.

Saying he was headed back to the deer camp and then saluting musicians and the crowd while acknowledging veterans and Pearl Harbor Day — Nugent was gone.

The stars were bright deep in the heart of West Texas on Tuesday, when ZZ Top's Elwood Francis (left), Billy Gibbons and the hardly seen Frank Beard on drums returned to the Taylor County Coliseum.
The stars were bright deep in the heart of West Texas on Tuesday, when ZZ Top's Elwood Francis (left), Billy Gibbons and the hardly seen Frank Beard on drums returned to the Taylor County Coliseum.

The show then belonged to "That Little Ol' Band from Texas." After opening with "Under Pressure," Gibbons acknowledged their surprise guest with "I Thank You."

It's great, Gibbons remarked, "to get out of the house." He stayed busy during the pandemic, he said. But that busyness did not include mowing the lawn.

Or, apparently, cutting his famous beard.

Bassist Elwood Francis, left, and Billy Gibbons broke out the fuzzy guitars for "Legs" during Tuesday's show at the Taylor County Coliseum. ZZ Top had not played in Abilene since 2015.
Bassist Elwood Francis, left, and Billy Gibbons broke out the fuzzy guitars for "Legs" during Tuesday's show at the Taylor County Coliseum. ZZ Top had not played in Abilene since 2015.

Playing to an enthusiastic but much smaller crowd than in 2015, when more than 6,000 filled the Coliseum, the band toured a song list that goes back 50 years. The big hits were mixed with lesser known tunes such as "I Gotsta Get Paid" and "Brown Sugar," and a ZZ version of "Sixteen Tons."

They broke out the fuzzy guitars for "Legs."

On bass guitar was Elwood Francis, who has taken over for Dusty Hill, who died in late July. He played a turquoise bass, same color as Gibbons' guitar. And he has let his own whiskers take over his face, not "mowing" them after taking his place on stage.

Gibbons referenced his longtime bandmate in "Jesus Just Left Chicago."

"You might not see him in person," he sang, but Hill still is around — on stage, in the music and with fans.

A picture of cool - ZZ Top original member Billy Gibbons leads off Tuesday's show in Abilene, where he first played in 1971 at Abilene High School.
A picture of cool - ZZ Top original member Billy Gibbons leads off Tuesday's show in Abilene, where he first played in 1971 at Abilene High School.

The show closed with the band's signature hit, "La Grange," followed by "Tush," with Gibbons, Francis and drummer Frank Beard playing to a performance of Hill, recorded not long before his death.

Gibbons turns 72 on Dec. 16.

The march of time was something to consider as fans went home seeing a band that first played in Abilene 50 years ago but still can rock with the best of 'em.

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

Ted Nugent lets loose with "Cat Scratch Fever" during his surprise, one-song set.
Ted Nugent lets loose with "Cat Scratch Fever" during his surprise, one-song set.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: 'Gimme All Your Lovin': Fans welcome back ZZ Top, surprise guest