Dusty Hill, bassist and founding member of ZZ Top, the legendary Southern blues-rock band known for their trademark long beards as much as their hits, died in his sleep earlier this week. He was 72. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard broke the news to fans via a Facebook post on Wednesday.
“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX,” they wrote. “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’ll forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”
They did not release what caused his death. But the band posted on its website on July 21 that Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue,” the Associated Press reported. Hill had battled hip problems since he fell on the band’s tour bus in 2014. He had surgery to repair it, which required several months of physical therapy, USA Today said. But the hip was a problem for the rest of his life.
Hill also suffered from a number of illnesses over the years, The Sun said. Doctors diagnosed him with Hepatitis C in 2000. He had surgery to remove kidney stones shortly before his fall on the tour bus, USA Today said.
Dusty Hill: ‘I Learned How to Play on Stage’
Born Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill in 1949, Hill showed talent as a musician at an early age. He began performing for money when he was just 8 years old, USA Today said. At 13, his brother asked him to join his band as their bass player. However, Hill didn’t really know how to play the instrument we, he told For Bass Players Only in 2016.
“I wasn’t very good, but I kind of learned how to play on stage and whatnot, and embarrassment is a great motivator,” he said. “If you don’t play well, standing up there with lights on it really stands out, so it behooves you to get your (expletive) up pretty quick.”
He learned quickly and eventually met Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard. They formed ZZ Top in 1969 and quickly gained a following. The band released its first album — aptly titled ZZ Top’s First Album — a year later. The band’s first hit, 1973’s “La Grange,” is about the Chicken House, a notorious brothel just outside of the Texas town of La Grange, the AP said. And while they found early success, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the band’s career exploded into the mainstream.
They released hits such as “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin.'” Along with the bass, Hill played guitar, sang backup vocals, and even played the keyboard on several songs. The band released 15 studio albums and sold more than 25 million records. The last being La Futura in 2012.