ZZ Top Will Record New Music Without Dusty Hill

Longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis will join the band on what Billy Gibbons calls "an interesting excursion into the unknown"
ZZ Top Will Record New Music Without Dusty Hill
Following the death of Dusty Hill last year, ZZ Top continued on the road with Elwood Francis — the band's guitar tech of over two decades — in place of their late bassist. Ahead of a new live album arriving next month, it's now been confirmed that Francis will continue with the group in-studio.

Speaking with Ultimate Classic Rock ahead of live release Raw arriving on July 8, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons shared how Hill was instrumental in bringing Francis into the fold beyond his role as technician, sharing of his late bandmate, "Not only was he a great performer and a great friend, he had a thread of wisdom."

"When [Dusty] was feeling a bit out of sorts, he requested going to see his physician," Gibbons continued. "He said, 'Listen, if I'm late getting back to the gig, make sure that Elwood, our guitar technician, wraps his hands around my guitar.' I said, 'Okay.' He said, 'Look, he's more than a family member. He's been a solid standby for over three decades.' He is adding to five decades of a rather serious side of making loud sounds. He falls right in. It's kind of an interesting twist, but the balance remains. We're crazy characters, almost cartoon-like, but at the bottom of it, we're all very dedicated and serious on the musical level."

Gibbons shared that "emotions were running high" when it came to ZZ Top's first shows without Hill, adding, "To Elwood's credit, he made certain that Dusty was in an ethereal sense still present during the experience. Elwood grabbed Dusty's hat and placed it on the microphone and made sure that there was a point of relation through the whole night. You know, I think he took it in stride. He certainly accepted Dusty's directive. It was, 'Hey Elwood, grab the guitar.' He said, 'Okay, listen, I'm the hired gun. If that's the direction, I gotta take it.'"

Asked about releasing music beyond Raw, and whether or not there was material held over from the trio's 2012 album La Futura, Gibbons replied, "Oh, yeah."

"In fact, this would be an interesting excursion into the unknown — particularly with Elwood holding down the bottom end," he explained. "We've got the makings of a band that is partially the tried-and-true longstanding experience with something so fresh, and [there's] kind of uncharted territory that's being broken. We find it rather intriguing. It's a calling that has us grinning from start to finish."

Hill, ZZ Top's longtime bassist, keyboardist and vocalist, died last July at his home in Houston, TX. He was 72.

Raw was recorded in connection with Banger Films' 2019 documentary ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band from Texas. Read Exclaim!'s interview with director Sam Dunn.