ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill dies at 72
Dusty Hill, the longtime bassist for the rock band ZZ Top, has died at 72.
The band confirmed the news Tuesday, issuing a statement that said, "We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. 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.'"
The statement, from ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard and guitarist and vocalist Billy Gibbons, concluded, "You will be missed greatly, amigo."
Hill was born in Dallas, and learned bass as a teenager after his brother asked him to.
"I started singing for money when I was about eight with my brother, and by the time I was 13 my brother played guitar and we had a drummer, and so my brother said, 'You need to play the bass. We need a bass,'" Hill told For Bass Players Only in 2016. "Most bass players are guitar players first. I wasn't; I was a singer and I came home from school and there was a bass guitar there, and I played a bar that night. It wasn't very good, but I kind of learned how to play on stage and whatnot, and embarrassment is a great motivator. If you don't play well, standing up there with lights on it really stands out, so it behooves you to get your s--- up pretty quick."
Hill founded ZZ Top with Beard and Gibbons in 1969, after he and Beard moved to Houston.
Known for their blues-influenced rock & roll, the band achieved crossover success in the 1980s when they became MTV stalwarts with hits like "Gimme all Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man," which had stylish videos to match.
The band members also became iconic for their bearded look (except, ironically, for Beard).
In 1984, Hill infamously shot himself in the stomach and had to drive to the hospital. It was an incident he continued to be confounded by years later when speaking to Classic Rock magazine.
"My first reaction was: 'S---!' And then 'Ouch.' I couldn't believe I'd done something so stupid," he said in 2010. "To this day, I don't know how I could do it. But I didn't really feel anything at the time. All I knew was that I had to get myself to a hospital straight away, so I got in the car and drove there. It was only when I arrived at the hospital that the seriousness of what I'd done hit me, and I went into shock."
Hill had a number of appearances on television and film. He played himself in an episode of The Drew Carey Show in 1998, and on Two and a Half Men in 2010, and voiced himself on the animated series King of the Hill in 2007. Alongside his bandmates, he appeared in Back to the Future Part III.
ZZ Top were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004., and Hill embarked on a 50th anniversary tour with the band in 2019.
Reflecting on the band's longevity in 2016, Hill told For Bass Players Only that he and his bandmates had been together so long because they enjoyed themselves.
"I don't know that there is a secret. But you gotta hit it with the fun part," he said. "We enjoy what we do. They're other people that enjoy what they do for a living; Turns out to be the same for us. That's as close as I can come to answering the question. There's a lot of different factors I guess, but the main thing is we just enjoy playing together. Different nights have different things in store for you, and it makes it interesting. That's as close as I can come to say it.
Asked what he could do that no one else could in a 2010 Q&A, the bassist told Classic Rock, "I like to believe that I play bass like Dusty Hill, and that's something nobody else can do as well as me. I'm the best Dusty Hill I know."
He also shared his biggest accomplishments in the interview, praising his family and his band.
"That's easy. I'm proud of the band and also of my wife and family," he said. "They are constants, and to have these people in my life does give me immense pride."