Joseph “Dusty” Hill, Bassist of ZZ Top Died at 72
ZZ Top’s bassist for more than 50 years, Joseph “Dusty” Hill, has died, the band’s longtime spokesman confirmed.
Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard, members of the band, issued a statement:
In Houston, Texas, Dusty Hill went away in his sleep. We are devastated by the news. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to you, along with the millions of ZZ Top fans throughout the world. “Blues Shuffle in C” will be a part of our lives for the rest of our days.
“You will be missed greatly, amigo.”
When it came down to it, ZZ Top was really a Texan heavy rock-blues group. They were born out of the same psychedelic scene as Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators, but they stayed true to their origins throughout their 50-year existence.
Born in 1949, Hill began playing cello in high school, which made the move to electric bass rather seamless. Frank Beard, a drummer, and his guitarist brother Rocky, a guitarist, participated in local bands such as the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues, travelling with Billy Gibbons’ Moving Sidewalks.
Hill and Beard left the band in 1968 due to musical disagreements, and ultimately joined Gibbons as ZZ Top. After Gibbons had founded the band in 1969, Bill Ham, their manager for decades, produced a single for the band. On Feb. 10, 1970, Gibbons and Beard played a show in Beaumont, Texas, when the guitarist was introduced to Beard by the original bassist. They celebrated their 50th anniversary in San Antonio in February 2020.
It wasn’t until 1973’s No. 8 LP “Tres Hombres” that Houston-bred trio La Grange had their first huge success; the song was inspired by Chicken Ranch, the renowned bordello in the same-named Texas city. A second top 10 album, “Fandango! “, was released in 1975 and featured the radio hit “Tush.” In New Orleans, the band recorded half of the album live, capturing its blues-rock rhythm. A million copies of “Degüello” were sold at Warner Bros.
It was the end of the 1970s when ZZ Top became one of America’s most popular concert attractions, thanks to their gutsy blues ‘n’ boogie.
It wasn’t until the release of “El Loco” in 1981 that the band’s career took off, both in terms of music and appearance. The first hints of the sonic manipulation that would take center stage on “Eliminator” were heard on that set. Gibbons’ and Hill’s lengthy beards, which graced the album’s cover, were the consequence of two years of tonsil neglect in between tours.
Gibbons and his bandmates experimented with new technology in 1983’s “Eliminator,” which updated their sound with guitar loops, altered vocals, and synthetic bass and drums.
“Gimme All Your Loving,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Legs” were the band’s breakout songs, and their accompanying videos, which featured automobile fanatic Gibbons’ 1934 Ford coupe, catapulted them to new levels of financial success and public ubiquity. Back to the Future III, directed by Bob Zemeckis, featured the band as themselves (1990).
As a result of sales of more than 10 million copies, “Eliminator” was certified diamond by the RIAA. “Afterburner” (1985), a five-time platinum album, and “Recycler” (1986) followed the megahit (1990).
In 1994, ZZ Top left Warner Bros. for RCA Records, where they signed a $35 million deal. As a result of that shift, Gibbons began co-producing with the band’s manager, Bill Ham, who had overseen the group’s studio work since its first single. Platinum-selling album Antenna was the outcome. Rick Rubin’s American Recordings brand released Gibbons’ “La Futura” (2012), which he co-produced with Rubin.