Dusty Hill, bassist for legendary Texas band ZZ Top, dies in his sleep at age 72
Dusty Hill, who played bass with ZZ Top for more than 50 years and helped make the Texas trio one of the world's most famous rock acts, has died. The band announced the news via social media on Wednesday. Hill was 72.
"We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX," surviving band members Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard wrote in an Instagram post. "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."
The cause of death has not been announced. A post to the ZZ Top website on July 21 noted that Hill "was on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue."
After a 16-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic, ZZ Top had resumed touring in mid-July. The band was scheduled to perform in South Carolina on Wednesday night and had more dates across the U.S. through September, including Texas stops in Lubbock, Tyler, Abilene, Corpus Christi, El Paso and Midland.
The new dates followed a ZZ Top 50th-anniversary tour that brought the group to Austin for a May 2019 concert at the amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas. ZZ Top last played Texas on Valentine's Day 2020 in San Antonio, the group's final concert before the pandemic break.
In a June statement about the resumed tour dates, Hill said: “They shut the door right after our 50th-anniversary tour and now it’s back open. We’re excited to get out there and play our music for everybody."
No announcement has been made yet as to whether some of those tour dates might still happen without Hill. One of ZZ Top's defining characteristics is that the band had retained the same three members for more than five decades.
Born Joseph Michael Hill in Dallas on May 19, 1949, Hill began playing in Metroplex bands as a teenager with his brother, Rocky Hill, and drummer Frank Beard. In 1968, Dusty and Beard moved to Houston, where Moving Sidewalks guitarist Billy Gibbons was forming a new band called ZZ Top.
In 1969, Hill and Beard joined Gibbons in the new band. Hill replaced Billy Ethridge, who had a brief tenure succeeding original bassist Lanier Greig. The power-trio lineup lasted for more than five decades, becoming rock radio mainstays in the 1970s with gold records such as “Tres Hombres” and “Fandango!”
They became superstars in the 1980s with the multiplatinum albums “Eliminator” and “Afterburner,” their success driven in part by the new MTV era and videos that played up the band’s carefully shaped image. Gibbons and Hill both sported long beards, a look that became ZZ Top’s visual trademark.
Hill occasionally made cameo film and television appearances. ZZ Top's three members portrayed Old West musicians in the 1990 blockbuster "Back to the Future Part III." A 2007 episode of the animated comedy "King of the Hill" was titled "Hank Gets Dusted"; the plot revolved around lead character Hank Hill being Dusty Hill's (fictional) cousin.
ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards inducted the trio. “These cats are steeped in the blues, so am I," Richards said in his induction speech. "These cats know their blues and they know how to dress it up. When I first saw them, I thought, ‘I hope these guys are not on the run, because that disguise is not going to work.’”
The band played Austin more than 20 times during its career, dating back to a 1969 performance at Gregory Gym on the University of Texas campus. They played the famed Armadillo World Headquarters several times in the 1970s.
ZZ Top also had a now-infamous show at UT's Memorial Stadium in 1974 that led coach Darrell Royal to forbid future concerts there for decades because of damage to the field. From 1982 to 2003, the band played eight concerts at the Erwin Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.