Dusty Hill, the bassist and vocalist for legendary Texas rock trio ZZ Top for more than five decades, has died of undisclosed causes, a rep for the band confirms. He was 72 years old.
Hill’s ZZ Top bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard said in a statement:
We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. 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 Joseph Michael Hill in Dallas, Texas, in 1949, Dusty and his brother Rocky grew up in East Dallas’ Lakewood neighborhood, where Dusty played the cello in high school. The brothers, along with future ZZ Top member Beard, formed a series of bands together, including The Cellar Dwellers, The Warlocks and American Blues.
Dusty and Beard relocated to Houston in 1968, where they would join Gibbons in ZZ Top—the band as we now know them played their first gig as a trio in Beaumont, Texas, on Feb. 10, 1970.
ZZ Top released ZZ Top’s First Album in 1971 and had their first hit with 1973’s Tres Hombres, which featured one of the band’s best-loved tracks, “La Grange,” written about a brothel in the Texas city of the same name. Fandango! followed in 1975, delivering another ZZ Top classic in “Tush.”
1976’s Tejas was the band’s last release under their record contract at that time, after which they took a two-year break, during which Gibbons and Hill grew the voluminous beards that have since become synonymous with ZZ Top.
The band made their Warner Bros. Records debut with 1979’s Degüello, and fired on all cylinders at the label through the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s, releasing Eliminator, Afterburner and Recycler, followed by a greatest-hits album in 1992.
ZZ Top played Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 alongside James Brown and The Blues Brothers. The band made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, with The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards delivering their induction speech.
Gibbons and Beard announced last week (July 23) that Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue, adding, “They await a speedy recovery and have him back pronto. Per Dusty’s request, ‘The show must go on!’” The band’s longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis filled in for Hill.
Listen to a 1980 ZZ Top show from the Paste archives below.