Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, who provided the bass line for the band that’s had legs for more than half a century, has died at the age of 72, just days after he’d taken a leave of absence.
“We are saddened by the news today that our compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston,” wrote lead vocalist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard in a joint statement Wednesday. “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.”
Hill served as the still-active group’s bassist for more than 50 years. One of the original founding members of ZZ Top, the Dallas-born instrument player cut his chops on the cello in high school.
The blues-rock group was easily recognizable with their signature beards and sunglasses, and they churned out several hits through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Among their most popular songs were “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Legs,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Cheap Sunglasses.”
ZZ Top celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 with a tour and a documentary, ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Hill had suffered a number of health scares in recent years, although it’s unclear if these were related to his death: In 2000, ZZ Top canceled a European tour after Hill was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. On Friday, ZZ Top wrote in a Facebook post that Hill was on “a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue. We await a speedy recovery and have him back pronto.”
Following the announcement of his death, friends and fans took to social media to pay tribute to the legendary musician.
“For 50 entire years, Dusty Hill anchored down one of the greatest rock power trios that’s ever existed. RIP Hombre,” wrote music journalist Corbin Reiff.
“RIP DUSTY HILL, I love you forever,” wrote comedian Rob Delaney. “Your bass was so loud at one show it made my wife puke. You were half of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest-EVER rhythm section and a hell of a songwriter.”
“Smoke a fat one for Dusty Hill,” eulogized the band Primitive Man. “Tragic. 52 years a rocker. A real one. A LIFER. So much [ZZ Top] in all 3 of our lives growing up, we knew we had to stay a power trio, and that’s no lie.”
“I hate that my social media has become more of an obituary, but such is life,” tweeted singer Jeff Scott Soto. “Young or old, we are but mere mortals when our time comes. RIP to the GREAT Dusty Hill of @ZZTop. Thank you for the decades of music!!”
Hill was born on May 19, 1949, and played in various Dallas bands before teaming with Beard in the group American Blues. They eventually recruited guitarist Gibbons from local psychedelic-rock outfit Moving Sidewalks — which had opened for Jimi Hendrix a year earlier — and ZZ Top was on its way.
The band was scheduled to play July 28 in Simpsonville, South Carolina, but a venue manager confirmed that the show had been canceled.