Keith Urban Plays Some Wicked Guitar on ZZ Top’s ‘Rough Boy’

2023 BMI Troubadour Awards - Credit: Erika Goldring for BMI*
2023 BMI Troubadour Awards - Credit: Erika Goldring for BMI*

ZZ Top were never really a ballad band. Think “La Grange,” “Tush,” and “Legs.” But for 1986’s Afterburner they tried their hand at a power ballad with “Rough Boy” — this was the Eighties after all. Earlier this week in Nashville, Keith Urban put his own spin on “Rough Boy” at a special event honoring ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

Urban was in attendance for the annual BMI Troubadour dinner, an industry event held each September by the performing-rights org to salute a select artist as its “Troubadour.” Last year’s went to Lucinda Williams, and before her luminaries like John Prine, John Hiatt, and Robert Earl Keen all received the honor.

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At Gibbons’ guitar-forward blowout on Monday, pickers like Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Chris Isaak, and Urban covered ZZ Top’s songs. Kingfish soloed his way through “Waitin’ for the Bus” and Isaak tackled “Sharp Dressed Man,” while Elle King sang “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and Robert Earl Keen interpreted the Texas boogie of “La Grange.” Urban sang a soulful version of “Rough Boy,” but it was his guitar playing that brought down the house. He even impressed SiriusXM’s hard-rock personality Eddie Trunk, on hand to deliver a speech honoring Gibbons. Later, Trunk posted a video of Urban’s performance and his “mega tasty playing.”

The BMI Troubadour dinner is the unofficial kickoff to AmericanaFest, held the same week in Nashville. Along with Gibbons and those playing for him onstage, guests included Molly Tuttle, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, John Oates, Kix Brooks, Jamey Johnson, and Gibbons’ protégé and musical partner, Tim Montana. BMI Icon recipients Steve Cropper, John Oates, and Bob DiPiero were also in the house.

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