Dusty Hill, bassist and longtime member of the Texan rock trio ZZ Top, has died at the age of 72. In a statement posted to ZZ Top’s social media channels, Hill’s surviving bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard said that Hill passed away in his sleep at his Houston home. “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’,” they wrote. “We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”
Joseph Michael Hill was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Along with his brother Rocky and future ZZ Top bandmate Frank Beard, Hill played in ’60s garage bands like the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues. In 1968, Rocky left the group after deciding he wanted to focus more on straight blues. Hill and Beard moved to Houston, spending a short period of time in a fake version of the Zombies – a group assembled by American promoters after the British act broke up. Teaming up with singer and guitarist Billy Gibbons, they formed ZZ Top, sharing their first single ‘Salt Lick’ in 1969; the aptly titled ZZ Top’s First Album came out two years later. The trio’s third album, 1974’s Tres Hombres, was their breakthrough, bringing them their first bit hit with ‘La Grange’.
Throughout the rest of the 1970s, ZZ Top would release several more records and scored hits like ‘Tush’ and ‘It’s Only Love’. 1979’s ‘Degüello’ introduced ZZ Top’s new image – the band dressed identically and sported massive beards – and marked a shift towards a more synth-driven sound. The following decade saw the band further incorporating modern stylings without abandoning their blues roots, which took them to a new level of commercial success. Their top-selling 1983 album Eliminator featured the songs ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, and ‘Legs’, which became smash hits on both MTV and radio, while 1985’s Afterburner reached No. 4 on the US charts. Their last record with Hill was 2012’s Rick Rubin-produced La Futura.
In 2004, ZZ Top were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the band kept touring throughout the 2000s. Just last month, they hit the road for their 50th anniversary tour after a 16-month hiatus, though Hill was forced to skip a string of US shows after sustaining a hip injury. Following the news of Hill’s death, Gibbons confirmed ZZ Top will carry on as a band and that Hill will be replaced by longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis.