Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top Says the ‘Waterworks’ Have Been ‘Coming and Going’ Since Death of Dusty Hill

by Josh Lanier

Billy Gibbons, guitarist and lead singer of ZZ Top, said he’s been struggling since his friend and bandmate Dusty Hill died unexpectedly on July 27. Hill was 72.

Gibbons did a Q&A Thursday with Variety about the future of ZZ Top and how he’s coping with Hill’s death. He admits he’s struggling.

“Passing through the grieving process, I can tell you it’s no less than anyone else that loses a good friend or a close associate,” he said. “And at the same time, knowing that this came up so suddenly — going to bed and not waking up. … He was in, and he was out.”

Hill and Gibbons have been in ZZ Top since 1969 along with drummer Frank Beard. Gibbons said Hill had made him promise that “the show must go on” if something were to happen to him. Hill suffered several serious injuries in recent years. But doctors haven’t determined an official cause of death, Gibbons said.

Gibbons admits that being able to honor Hill’s wishes and perform in his memory on stage is helpful.

“I had a couple of moments with the waterworks coming and going, and I really felt a sense of relief,” he said about performing since Hill’s death. “… This is coming from a very deep and glorious place, with respect to knowing that after 50 years with the guy, we were all joined at — no pun intended — joined at the hip.”

Longtime ZZ Top guitar tech Elwood Francis is replacing Dusty Hill on bass, slide guitar, and harmonica. Oddly, when COVID-19 forced ZZ Top off the road, Hill joked he wouldn’t cut his grass as did Gibbons. Francis, however, vowed not to shave his beard. So, when the band got back together after Hill’s death, Francis had a beard as long as Hill’s and Gibbon’s famous facial hair.

Rock World Reacts to Death of Dusty Hill

ZZ Top has been a staple of the blues-rock scene for decades, and during that time they’ve been friends with some of the most influential names in the industry. Since Hill’s death, those friends have been paying tribute to the rocker on social media.

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley called Hill a gentleman and recalled a lifetime of gigs together.

“WOW! Dusty Hill. What an icon. @ZZTop ’s bassist forever. So unique. Always a gentleman from the days of us opening for them through the recent days of them opening for us. I don’t know what to say but ‘Thank you’ and ‘Rest however you damn well choose!'”

Kid Rock paid tribute to the longtime Texas rocker on Instagram, saying he was “privileged to call him a friend.”

“I loved Dusty Hill first as a player, singer, songwriter and performer. I was privileged to also call him a friend. I’ll forever cherish our time on the road and on stage together. An all-around tremendous human being, Texan and American. We lost another one of the greats today, but rock n roll never forgets. Rock on Dusty, Rock on.”