ZZ Top Bassist Dusty Hill Dead at 72
Hill passed away in his sleep at his home in Houston, TX
"We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX," Gibbons and Beard's statement reads. "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."
Born in Dallas, TX, in 1949, Joseph Michael "Dusty" Hill played cello as a high school student, in addition to bass with local outfit American Blues, which also featured his brother, Rocky Hill, and future ZZ Top bandmate Frank Beard.
The late '60s would see the Hill brothers and Beard move from Dallas to Houston. Beard would soon join an early incarnation of ZZ Top featuring guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Billy Ethridge, as the group were preparing to sign a record deal with London Records. Ethridge was next to leave the band, paving the way for Dusty Hill to join ZZ Top.
As ZZ Top, Hill, Beard and Gibbons would record 15 studio albums and sell an estimated 50 million albums worldwide over a career of five decades. The trio would lay out the Southern rock, hard rock, blues influences and lyrical innuendo that would come to define their sound on 1971's ZZ Top's First Album, and followed that with 1972's Rio Grande Mud, which earned them their first charting single, "Francine."
The band would make their commercial breakthrough in 1973 with Tres Hombres, led by rocking single "La Grange." Albums Fandango! (1975), Tejas (1976), Degüello (1979) and El Loco (1981) would follow, spawning successful singles including "Tush," "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Tube Snake Boogie," ahead of ZZ Top reaching even greater commercial heights.
With 1983's Eliminator, Hill and his bandmates would blend their blues rock roots with new wave influence, heavily incorporating synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers. Music videos for singles "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" launched the band (and those beards) into wider pop culture consciousness, further entrenched with the arrival of Afterburner in 1985.
ZZ Top's final album with Hill was 2012's La Futura, produced by Gibbons and Rick Rubin. Outside of music, Hill made film and television appearances in Back to the Future Part III, WWE Raw, Deadwood, The Drew Carey Show and more. He appeared as himself in the eleventh season of King of the Hill, where he is said to be Hank Hill's cousin in episode "Hank Gets Dusted."
Find tributes to Hill from Danko Jones, Ozzy Osbourne, John Fogerty, Flea, Paul Stanley and more below.
I am shocked.— Danko Jones (@dankojones) July 28, 2021
R.I.P. to the MAN - Dusty Hill
Just shocked. pic.twitter.com/ndcx2nhwrn
So sad to hear about Dusty Hill. An all-time great bass player, and a rock and roll institution. Breaks my heart. @ZZTop— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) July 28, 2021
We are devastated to hear about Dusty's passing. We were so blessed to share the stage with the great Dusty and ZZ Top many times, and if that wasn't Rock and Roll heaven, I don't know what is. The show we did together just last week would be his last. So heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/oKKslJ2U9M— John Fogerty (@John_Fogerty) July 28, 2021
WWE is saddened to learn that Dusty Hill of ZZ Top passed away at the age of 72.— WWE (@WWE) July 28, 2021
WWE extends its condolences to Hill's family, friends and fans. https://t.co/8hxYBD59qy
WOW! Dusty Hill. What an icon. @ZZTop 's bassist forever. So unique. Always a gentleman from the days of us opening for them through the recent days of them opening for us. I don't know what to say but "Thank you" and "Rest however you damn well choose!" https://t.co/tHfjLy1xbj— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) July 28, 2021
I'm deeply saddened by the loss of my friend #DustyHill. A great musician and a rock icon. My condolences and prayers go out to his wife Charlene, his family, and to Billy, Frank and to the entire @ZZTop organization. pic.twitter.com/quuLx1CpXg— Christopher Cross (@itsMrCross) July 28, 2021
RIP Dusty Hill of ZZ Top.— ORANGE CRUSH (@orangecrushart) July 28, 2021
You'll be remembered best for pulling pranks on your cousin Hank. pic.twitter.com/Yemn692FyG