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."

Friday, July 30, 2021

Technical Diffliculties

I have to apologize for not writing many blog entries this week. This week is usually the hottest part of the year in Missouri, and the past few days were certainly hot. We reached temperatures in the 90s with the humidity typical of the state, so that heat indexes reached well over 100. On top of this my allergies have flared up this week, although I am not sure why. Pollen has been low, so I am guessing it might have to do with the wildfires in California, whose smoke has drifted our way. Anyway, those of you who know me realize how much I hate summer. Right now I am counting down the days to fall

Tomorrow I hope to get a eulogy for Dusty Hill, the bassist for ZZ Top, out tomorrow. Next week is supposed to be cooler (it is actually going to be below normal, with highs in the lower 80s), so with any luck I will be back on my usual publishing schedule next week!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Two New Books by Eddie Muller and Will Murray

Two books have recently come out that would be of interest to fans of older pop culture. What is more, both are by top experts in their respective fields. If you are like me, then you will be looking forward to reading them.

Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Eddie Muller: If you are a fan of film noir, chances are you are familiar with Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller. First published in 1998, it has become the bible for film noir. It was on July 21 2021 that Running Press published the new, revised, and expanded edition. Of course, Eddie Muller is one of the foremost experts on film noir in the world, if not the foremost expert. He is the founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, a non-profit responsible for rescuing and restoring film noirs. He is also a co-programmer of San Francisco's Noir City film festival. Today I suspect many are most familiar with Eddie Muller as the host of  TCM's programming block Noir Alley.

Master of Mystery: The Rise of The Shadow by Will Murray: Just as Eddie Muller may well be the expert on film noir, Will Murray may be the expert on pulp magazines, particularly the hero pulps of the Thirties and Forties. In Master of Mystery: The Rise of The Shadow, Will Murray explores the origins of the still popular pulp hero The Shadow. Master of Mystery: The Rise of The Shadow covers The Shadow's start as the host of the radio show The Detective Story Hour to his popular pulp magazine to the character's expansion into his own radio show, movie serials, comic books, and more.