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Dusty Hill (1949–2021), ZZ Top bassist

by Linnea Crowther

Dusty Hill was the longtime bassist for the legendary rock band ZZ Top.

Rock star

After playing in bands including the Warlocks and American Blues, Hill joined ZZ Top in 1969, just after they signed a record contract with London Records. The band hit it big with their 1973 single “La Grange” and followed it with enduring 1970s hits like “Tush,” I Thank You,” and “Cheap Sunglasses.” They built their reputation on blues riffs and clever lyrics, along with their unmistakable style – Hill and lead singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons both wore long beards, sunglasses, and hats onstage. In addition to playing bass, Hill sang backing vocals as well as lead on several songs including “Tush,” “Bad Girl,” and “Hi Fi Mama.” ZZ Top brought their bluesy rock into a new decade as they entered the 1980s, incorporating synthesizers into huge hit singles including “Legs,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Sleeping Bag.” In the ‘80s, ZZ Top were popular on MTV as well as scoring their first Top 10 hits.

Hill and his bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. The band remained together for more than 50 years, keeping their famous lineup of Hill, Gibbons, and drummer Frank Beard intact. Their most recent album was 2012’s “La Futura,” though they had reportedly planned a follow-up. Hill made on-screen appearances in “Back to the Future Part III,” “Deadwood,” and “The Drew Carey Show,” as well as doing a voice role for an episode of “King of the Hill” in which Hank Hill was said to be his cousin.

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Hill on ZZ Top’s longevity

“I don’t know that there is a secret. But you gotta hit it with the fun part. 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.” —from a 2016 interview with For Bass Players Only

Tributes to Dusty Hill

Full obituary: Variety

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