September 23, 2021

Outsiders Radio: Episode #75

AIR DATE: May 2021


SHOW THEME: Billy Gibbons Tribute


ERIC: Hey everybody, it’s Eric Church back for the seventy-fifth episode of “Outsiders Radio.”  As you hear this, I’m in rehearsals with my band.  That means we’re getting closer to returning to the stage.  In fact I’ve got a few shows coming up in the next few weeks.  And to get us in the mood, let’s go to Boston.


That’s what it sounded like four years ago in Boston.  And we’ll be hitting the road again real soon.  But actually, just a few weeks ago, I was on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry House here in Nashville for a tribute to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. The whole show was filmed for a TV special that will run later this year.  A lotta great artists were there, including Jimmy Vaughan, Lucinda Williams, Chris Janson, and Travis Tritt.  Of course, Travis knows what it’s like to be an outsider.


Travis: Yeah still am sometimes. I just wanted to do music my own way. Some of the stuff I was doing just wasn’t allowed. I wanted to release a song I had written as a tribute to the southern rock music I grew up to. I wrote this song called Put Some Drive In Your Country, and for some reason, that wasn’t allowed, Nashville wouldn’t accept it, radio wouldn’t accept it, and I got a lot of grief for it. One of the biggest comments I got was, ‘He’s a renegade, he’s a hell raiser, he’s an outlaw.



The unmistakable voice of Travis Tritt playing a song that got him in a little trouble back in 1990.   Travis and I were part of a tribute show a few weeks ago for ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons.


Travis: When word came down that Billy was doing this tribute, I think he wanted some people who not only had country chops but also could rock out, and they were nice enough to ask us, and getting to work with all these great players, I’m sure Eric would agree, it was a great thrill  to play music with someone I grew up listening to.  It was a great thrill for me.


He’s right, definitely a thrill.  Most of the performers that night did ZZ Top songs. But not Travis.


Travis: They asked me what I wanted to do and I started thinking about ZZ Top songs, and I don’t know if it came from Billy, or who it came from but they said we would really prefer if you did one of your hits, so Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde seemed to fit that southern rock vibe.



Travis Tritt and the song he performed on the Billy Gibbons Tribute he & I did in Nashville a few weeks ago.  So what’s Travis Tritt’s favorite ZZ Top song?


Travis: Rough Boys, I’m a Rough Boy, I used to do that one in the clubs all the time, I did a lot of ZZ Top songs when I started, they were like The Eagles to me, they were the soundtrack of my life, when the Afterburner album came out, all that great stuff, every song hit home with me, but if I had to do Rough Boy, I think that would be a lotta fun to do, I know it inside and out.



The original version of Rough Boy by ZZ Top.  We were part of a tribute to the band’s guitar player Billy Gibbons a few weeks ago at the Grand Ole Opry House.  Also on that show was Chris Janson, who played one of the band’s early hits.


Chris Janson: You know Tush was one of the first songs I learned to play when I was 9 years old, I’ve been playing that in bars and honky tonks all my life, and I thought that’s the one I want to do for sure, and they were like “cool” and then the show came about and I think it went off supreme, it was one of the funnest music nights I ever had because it was about the music.



Back to 1975 with ZZ Top here on Outsiders Radio. I’m Eric Church, and I recently performed on a tribute show to ZZ Top guitar player Billy Gibbons with a lot of great artists including Travis Tritt and Chris Janson.


Chris: I gotta say, the tone of the evening was about the music, music steered the ship, that’s how I function best, and it was awesome, and getting to connect with Eric on a personal level for the first time was really special, he said some kind things, I feel like a friendship blossomed there, thankful to be on his show today and thankful to have the honor to speak about this show, it was a lotta fun, rock & roll & country music, meeting at the forefront, and by the way ZZ Top was one of the first concerts I went to so to be right in the middle of it was a killer evening altogether.




That’s the current hit from Chris Janson, and as he said, we got to spend some time together a few weeks ago at the Billy Gibbons tribute.  I also got to spend some time in the dressing room with Billy himself.  ZZ Top defines a lot of my youth.  The songs, the guitar playing, the attitude.  I was the guy who tried to spin my guitar like they did on their belt buckle.  So it was a tough decision when I had to pick one song.  But THIS is the one I chose to do.




That’s ZZ Top from their album “DeGuello” and the song I did at the Billy Gibbons tribute a few weeks ago in Nashville.  Also on that album:  “Cheap Sunglasses.” 

As we talk about Billy Gibbons this week on Outsiders Radio, I should point out that he’s actually releasing his third solo album called “Hardware,” out on June 4th. Of course it features a lot of the Billy Gibbons guitar work he’s known for.  Here’s My Lucky Card.



That is the legendary Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and a song from his brand new solo album, “Hardware,” out June 4th.   “America Salutes You: A Tribute To Billy Gibbons” was filmed for a TV show, airing later this year.  The tribute wrapped up with all of us on stage to join Billy for the song that started his career.  When you see this show, you’ll see three of us, myself, Billy Gibbons, and Chris Janson, in the center circle of the Opry House stage.


Chris: It was great to be on stage with he & Billy, of course the rest of the cast, it was just special just having me & Eric & Billy right up front in the circle, there was a special chemistry happening up there, I could feel it, I know he could too, it was just a real pleasure and a real honor.


The first big hit from ZZ Top from back in 1973: LaGrange.  Look for “America Salutes You: A Tribute To Billy Gibbons later this year.  That show was also a benefit for a number of military charities, including CreatiVets and the USO.  It being Memorial Day weekend, we asked our guest Travis Tritt if there’s a song on his new album “Set In Stone” that he’s like to dedicate to the soldiers.


Travis: There’s several songs on this album that talk about how I feel about my country, but the one that would have the most impact is the current single Smoke In a Bar. The song talks about nostalgia.  A lot of people are looking for nostalgia. There’s one line that says “A deal was a deal when you shook a man’s hand, and when we saw the flag flying, we all gave a damn.”  And I just did that song in Camp Douglass Wisconsin, which is a National Guard military base.  So most of the audience was military people. When I did that song, I thought they were gonna erupt. They came out of their seats and went berserk. That’s the response every night with that song.





As I was listening to Travis Tritt talk about his love for the military, it reminded me of an experience I had a few months ago.  I was performing the National Anthem right before the Super Bowl.  During the rehearsal, I watched the video of the soldiers around the world, all standing and saluting, and then the color guard came out.  When you think about those soldiers who are at those foreign bases, who serve this country, that was one of the most powerful things I’d ever experienced.  So think about them as we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend.  Also, as we wrap things up, I want to give a big shout out to all the fans, all the Church Choir members, and all of the radio stations who helped us get another #1 song.  I’m Eric Church, see you next time on Outsiders Radio.