Saturday, July 31, 2021

Godspeed Dusty Hill of ZZ Top

Dusty Hill, the bassist for ZZ Top, died on July 27 2021 at the age of 72. No cause of death has been given.

Dusty Hill was born Joseph Michael Hill on May 19 1949 in Dallas, Texas. As a child he was interested in the blues, buying records by Muddy Waters and Son House. He took up the bass when he was only 13 years old. Dusty Hill, his brother Rocky Hill, and future ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard played in such local Dallas bands as The Warlocks, The Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues. American Blues released three albums.

Dusty Hill and Frank Beard eventually left American Blues and relocated to Houston. It was there that Dusty Hill replaced ZZ Top bassist Billy Ethridge and Frank Beard replaced original ZZ Top drummer Dan Mitchell. Of the founding members of ZZ Top, only guitarist Billy Gibbons remained. It was not long after Dusty Hill joined ZZ Top that the band got a recording contract with London Records. Their first album, ZZ Top's First Album, was released in 1971. After two singles that did not chart, ZZ Top broke the Billboard Hot 100 with "Francine," from their second album, Rio Grande Mud. Their next single, "La Grange," from their third album, Tres Hombres, did even better, going to no. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their single "Tush," from the album Fandango!, peaked at no. 20, and would be their highest charting single for years.

ZZ Top would reach the peak of their chart success in the Eighties with the album Eliminator in 1983. The album itself went to no. 9 on the Billboard album chart and produced the hit singles "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs." For the remainder of the Eighties and into the early Nineties, their albums continued to perform well. ZZ Top ultimately released 15 studio albums and four live albums.

ZZ Top had possibly one of the most stable line-ups in rock music history, keeping the line up of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard for over 50 years. In 2010 Dusty Hill summed up the band's stability to Classic Rock by simply saying, "“It’s a cliché and sounds so simplistic, but it’s down to the three of us genuinely enjoying playing together." It is certainly hard picturing ZZ Top as consisting of anyone but Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard. And there can be no doubt that Dusty Hill was responsible for much of ZZ Top's success.

Quite simply, it was Dusty Hill's skill with the bass that provided the bottom line of every ZZ Top song. He was the perfect bassist for ZZ Top's signature style of blues fused with rock music. It is hard picturing anyone but Dusty Hill having played on the boogie blues infused "La Grange."

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