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DUSTY HILL,
1949-2021

ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill has died. He was 72.

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard announced, “We are saddened by the news today that our compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas. 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.”

No cause has been given.

Hill, a Dallas native, played in local bands with his brother Rocky Hill on guitar and Beard on drums in the 1960s when Gibbons was leading the increasingly popular Moving Sidewalks in Houston.

After moving to Houston, Hill and Beard hooked up with Gibbons, who had already formed an edition of ZZ Top. Hill became a member in February 1970 and the lineup would hold for more than 50 years.

They had their first hit in 1973 with Tres Hombres (London), which featured the boogie classic “La Grange.” They followed it with Fandango! and its single “Tush,” featuring Hill on vocals, in 1975.

“We wrote the song in Alabama at a sound check in the afternoon,” Hill said in the liner notes to a 2003 Rhino box set. “Billy just started playing, and I started singing, and we recorded it. With the exception of a few lyrical changes, that’s the way it was. One of our first body-part songs.”

The trio continued to work in a boogie-blues vein throughout the 1970s, eventually becoming one of the biggest touring attractions in the country.

While many bands of their generation struggled to adjust to the MTV era of the early 1980s, ZZ Top hit the jackpot by altering their sound with the addition of synthesizers and horns, playing up their unique bearded look and relying heavily on the video imagery of attractive women and exotic cars. Hill played keyboards and tenor sax in addition to bass.

They'd moved to Warner Bros. Records for 1979’s Degüello, breaking out globally with 1983’s Eliminator, which shipped more than 10 million units in the U.S. alone. The album included three of their biggest hits: “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.”

The follow-up, 1985's Afterburner, sold more than 5m copies despite the lack of hit singles; 1990's Recycler and Antenna, released by RCA in 1994, were million-sellers. RCA had signed the band for a then-extravagant $35m. ZZ Top's last album was 2012’s La Futura, on Republic.

ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

The band had resumed touring this month without Hill, who was taking time off to address a hip issue. They will continue to tour with guitar tech Elwood Francis playing bass.

 

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