Billy F. Gibbons occupies a curious dichotomy: while every aspect of Gibbons as a performer is instantly identifiable—the beard! the hat! the guitars! the dancing! the hot rods! the hot sauce! the riffs! the tone!—there remains an air of mystery; lore propagated by years of storytelling on the part of fans, writers, and the Rev himself.
If an original Gibson Moderne exists, most would acknowledge that Billy F. Gibbons is likely the proud owner. It takes no stretch of the imagination to believe that Gibbons harbors strongholds packed with hundreds, if not thousands, of guitars all across the country. He's well-known for using a peso as a pick, but his guitar tech of 17 years, Elwood Francis, claims to have never seen one. And then there are the the less savory stories—internet discussions on "lip synced" performances have proliferated for years. He's guitar's answer to Dos Equis' most interesting man in the world.
The line where the truth ends and the lore begins is blurry, to say the least. I set out to uncover the real story behind his live gear—or as close as I could get—on a a chilly fall night on the campus of the University of Illinois, Springfield. Gibbons and Francis were kind enough to let me poke around, shoot photos, and ask questions. And while not every question was answered, I got pretty damn close.