After more than 40 years of making some serious, blues-based rock with ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons has managed to maintain his sense of humor.

When asked in an email interview what he likes to do when not making music, Gibbons emailed back: “Messing around with cars, discovering the next best Mexican joint, collecting African art, painting, investigating paranormal phenomena. One of those isn’t real … leave it to you to figure it out.”

So we can probably assume he doesn’t paint. That beard would definitely get in the way.

When asked if he minds being classified as “classic rock” from a bygone era, he replied: “The ‘classic’ handle doesn’t bother us. If it’s OK for Bach and Beethoven, who are we to complain?”

Gibbons, 61, was just barely 20 years old when he founded ZZ Top in Houston in 1969. A year later, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard joined him, and the three have been turning out rock classics ever since. They’ll play an outdoor show tonight at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion with fellow classic rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Although Gibson is probably best known for his guitar playing and chest-length beard, he’s also an accomplished actor. For the past five years, he’s had a recurring role on the Fox network crime drama “Bones” as the father of a rather quirky member of the show’s crime-solving team, Angela.

“He’s a better actor than people give him credit for,” Hart Hanson, the show’s producer, told the Buffalo News last year. “I selfishly used the fact that I had a TV series to meet one of my idols. And he turned out to be a really interesting actor.”

The Houston-born Gibbons has had a pretty interesting life. Just a year or so after forming ZZ Top, he and his bandmates were opening for the likes of Janis Joplin, Humble Pie and The Rolling Stones. The group’s bluesy sound, distorted guitars and boogie-woogie rhythms set them apart from other rock bands of the day.

Early songs such as “La Grange” and “Tush” established the band’s blues-rock credentials. By the late ’70s, the band was still turning out blues-based songs such as “I Thank You” and “Cheap Sunglasses.”

And to this day, when asked what he listens to for fun, Gibbons lists mostly blues artists.

“Well, anything by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Bo Diddley, The Rolling Stones,” Gibbons replied.

ZZ Top had its biggest commercial success in the 1980s with a slicker pop sound on the albums “Eliminator” (1983) and “Afterburner” (1985). With help from music videos that showcased the band’s too-cool-for-school attitude, the albums included the radio-friendly hits “Legs,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Got Me Under Pressure,” “Sleeping Bag” and “Rough Boy.”

When asked to name the one “big break” that solidified the band’s career and cemented its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (ZZ Top was inducted in 2004), Gibbons was slightly torn.

“I guess we’d have to go with recording the ‘Eliminator’ album and getting to be part of those videos starring that pretty car and those pretty girls,” wrote Gibbons. “However, ‘Tush’ and ‘La Grange’ put a stamp on the map in a significant way.”

Gibbons and the other two ZZ Top members have remained close. He said that often, before playing a gig, they meet in a parking lot to race their remote-controlled cars. “Keeps us out of bigger trouble,” he wrote.

Besides looking for the ZZ Top guys in the parking lot before the show tonight, you might want to keep an eye out for them at L.L. Bean in Freeport. Gibbons says he and the other guys usually stop by there when they are in Maine.

The three are even going on a cruise together in December. It’s called the “Rock Legends Cruise,” and ZZ Top will be one of several bands on board the ship, playing for passengers departing from Florida for ports in the Bahamas.

“It’s a fundraising effort for the Native American Heritage Association, raising money helping American Indians in South Dakota,” wrote Gibbons. “They asked us and we found out that some of our good friends were going to be aboard to perform.

“So we said, ‘Hell, yeah.’ “

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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