The Story Behind ZZ Top's Spinning Fur Guitars
Remember ZZ Top’s iconic spinning fur guitars? I’m talking, of course, about those now-famous hirsute twirling axes—a guitar and a bass—that appear in the band’s 1983 “Legs” music video. They were built by Dean Zelinsky, founder of Dean Guitars and the man behind Dean Zelinsky Private Label Guitars.
Fairly recently, Zelinsky opened up about the furry guit-fiddles on his website, deanzelinsky.com, and in one of his newsletters.
“[ZZ Top’s] Billy Gibbons and I were introduced in the late Seventies through a mutual friend,” Zelinsky wrote. “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.’
“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.”
And the rest is rock and roll history.
For the complete Billy Gibbons blog post, more Zelinsky news (including an interesting tidbit involving Zakk Wylde), blogs and videos, head here.