Remembering Legendary Icon, ZZ Top Bassist Dusty Hill

We’re saddened to hear the news about ZZ Top’s longtime bassist, Dusty Hill’s passing. We send our condolences to Dusty’s family, ZZ Top, crew, friends & fans.

Born: May 19, 1949 – Died: July 27, 2021

Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill was an American musician who was the bassist of the rock band ZZ Top. He also sang lead and backing vocals, and played keyboards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of ZZ Top in 2004. Hill played with ZZ Top for over 50 years; after his death, he was replaced by the band’s longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis, in line with Hill’s wishes.

On July 27, 2021, Hill died at his home in Houston, Texas at the age of 72. Hill died in his sleep. His rep confirmed the musician’s death, but said a cause of death was currently unknown.

According to a Facebook post by the band, Hill recently suffered a hip injury, preventing him from touring with the band. At that time, the band said its longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, would fill in on bass, slide guitar and harmonica.

“We are saddened by the news that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas,” surviving members Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard said in a statement. “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Gibbons confirmed that the band would continue with Francis, per Hill’s wishes. According to Gibbons, “Dusty emphatically grabbed my arm and said, ‘Give Elwood the bottom end, and take it to the Top.’ He meant it, amigo. He really did.”

Upcoming performances for the trio included a Las Vegas residency at The Venetian Resort scheduled to begin Oct. 8.

Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, Dusty Hill headed to Houston in 1970 and joined ZZ Top, alongside guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard. The band grew in popularity blending blues and rock and roll, and went on to release 15 albums in their roughly 50-year history.

Hill wasn’t ZZ Top’s original bass player. He joined shortly before they cut their debut LP, ZZ Top’s First Album, in 1971, and remained a pivotal part of the group through their most recent albums and tours. Throughout all that time, the lineup stayed just Hill, Gibbons, and Beard, making them one of the most stable acts in rock history.

Hill said in an interview to Classic Rock in 2010 “It’s a cliché and sounds so simplistic, but it’s down to the three of us genuinely enjoying playing together,”

“We still love it, and we still get a kick out of being onstage. We also have enough in common to maintain a bond between us but sufficient differences to keep our individuality. And after all this time, we all know what winds up the others and what makes them the people they are.”

Hill, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in 1969. The band released its first album, titled “ZZ Top’s First Album,” in 1970. Three years later it scored its breakthrough hit, “La Grange,” which is an ode to the Chicken Ranch, a notorious brothel outside of a Texas town by that name.

The trio became recognizable worldwide for their distinctive look: long beards, sunglasses and Stetson hats.

They also gained fame for their popular music videos, including “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man,” going on to win three MTV Video Music Awards.

Dusty Hill mourned by fellow rockers

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

ZZ Top: Degüello

Degüello (1979) was a bridge between ZZ Top’s hard rocking blues roots and their increasing experimentation into the sounds of the digital age. It eventually went platinum in sales, yielding a slew of FM radio staples, including Cheap Sunglasses, I Thank You, Manic Mechanic, A Fool For Your Stockings, and I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.

Prior to the recording of Degüello, the band took a break that was originally supposed to be a couple of months that wound up stretching over 2 years. When they regrouped, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill had grown the signature beards that remain their trademark to this day.

Drummer Frank Beard did not participate (perhaps feeling that having “Beard” as a name was good enough for him!).

Another interesting item of information: the guys all played saxophone on Hi-Fi Mama (Gibbons on baritone, Hill on tenor, and Beard on alto).


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

ZZ Top have been together making music since 1970 (having gone through a few lineup changes the previous year), and the bearded Texans first hit the big time with 1973’s Tres Hombres, a record that contained the immortal boogie anthem La Grange. Billy Gibbons employed a style of picking his guitar that is referred to as “pinch harmonics”, and the sound of that captivated me to the point that I decided I absolutely must learn to play guitar. Thank you, Billy Gibbons! Other amazing songs on this stellar collection of Southern fried blues/hard rock include Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, Hot, Blue & Righteous, Master Of Sparks (a song about getting inside a home made round metal cage and being propelled out of a speeding pickup truck onto a desert highway!), and the tag team of Waitin’ For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago. This stuff remains just as badass today as it did on the day it was recorded, and that is why ZZ Top is eternal!

Written By Braddon S. Williams

On This Day in History

On this date in history, 8/16/1981, ZZ Top and Loverboy teamed up for a show at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. I’m not sure who thought this was a good combination, but it certainly brought in a diverse crowd.

This show took place during my party years, so I took the opportunity to sit through Loverboy’s set and elevate my happiness level for ZZ Top’s performance. In all fairness to Loverboy, they had a great sound mix and plenty of support from the young ladies who turned out in their best ’80’s fashions to witness the Canadian rockers.

Looking back, I’m not sure who all was with me at this show, but I know I wasn’t the only one sitting out the first half. I do remember having a conversation with some girls in the row behind us who just couldn’t fathom why we weren’t up dancing to the band’s music. Different strokes for different folks, and I was definitely there for the bearded bad boys from Texas. ZZ Top were touring the El Loco album and had begun the shift into a more modern version of their blues sound, a direction that would make them millions a couple of years later with the advent of MTV and their slick videos featuring fancy hot rods and fancier women.

In 1981 they were one of the first bands utilizing a state of the art laser light show, and had already begun incorporating the signature synchronized moves of Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, the 2 members with matching facial hair magnificence. Drummer Frank Beard was beardless in face only, apparently having Beard as a last name makes one exempt!

As modern as their approach was getting, the boys knew that a substantial part of their fan base expected the raw and dirty blues of their early years, and thankfully there was still plenty of that to go around.

Gibbons effortlessly pulled all kinds of nasty beauty out of his guitars and gave us the “how how how’s” in La Grange just like we have them ingrained in our memories from the countless times we have heard that song throughout the years. Sometimes these odd combinations make for a great concert and this one worked out just fine.

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

On This Day in History

ZebraPhotoOn this date in history, 6/4/1983, ZZ Top and Zebra appeared in concert at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.
Zebra had been getting some attention on the local FM radio station, WFBQ, and they were touring in support of their second album. I always thought they were kind of a poor man’s Rush, but they rocked out and did their thing and were well received by the crowd.
With that being said, we all knew who we were there to see, and the Texas trio delivered their down and dirty odes to wild women, fast cars, and cheap sunglasses.
All the stars and planets had
come together for ZZ Top in 1983. They released Eliminator in March and it eventually went Diamond, meaning it sold over 10 million copies.
The MTV videos (remember those? music videos?) portrayed Billy, Dusty, and Frank as these mythic cool characters and it carried over into their performance.

ZZ Top La Grange live 1982

It was certainly awesome that they garnered all this success after being around since the late 60’s, but they had built their reputation on their music and playing first, and that foundation was evident as they blazed through the classics like “Tush”, “La Grange” and many others in addition to the slicker new stuff. And in 2017 they are still going strong. Long live ZZ Top!
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

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