Dusty Hill, ZZ Top Bassist, Dead at 72

Dusty Hill in 2015
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Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Dusty Hill, whose bass offered bluesy bottom end for ZZ Top for more than 50 years, has died, his band members confirmed. He was 72 years old.

"We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at his home in Houston, TX," bandmates Billy F. Gibbons and Frank Beard wrote in a statement. "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.'...You will be missed greatly, amigo."

A cause of death was not disclosed. On July 23, the band announced that Hill would sit out upcoming tour dates due to a hip issue, with longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis sitting in for him. The band are slated to play across the U.S. through the end of the year, with a Canadian trek planned for the spring of 2022.

Born Joseph Michael Hill in Dallas, Texas, Hill was a fixture of the local music scene in the '60s, performing in several bands alongside drummer Frank Beard. (Their most bizarre collaboration was a fake version of U.K. rockers The Zombies.) But his most fateful decision was forming ZZ Top with Beard and Moving Sidewalks singer/guitarist Gibbons; their line-up remained unchanged for the entirety of their time together.

The trio's rollicking Southern blues earned them considerable acclaim into the '70s, with third album Tres Hombres (1973) becoming their first Top 10 smash. Follow-up Fandango, released in 1975, spun off their first chart hit "Tush," sung by Hill. The band further turned heads in 1976 and 1977 with the Worldwide Texas Tour, a larger-than-life concert series that saw the group bring the spirit of the Lone Star State through the United States, with a custom built set featuring canyon vistas and even actual livestock.

READ MORE: As Fast As They Can: In Praise of ZZ Top's 'Eliminator' Videos

After reconvening in the late '70s after a hiatus of a few years, Gibbons and Hill delighted in discovering that they had both decided not to shave their beards in their time away, letting them grow to theatrical length - a hallmark of the band from then on. (In one of rock's greatest ironies, Beard kept little more than a goatee.) But the beards were just a teaser for an even stranger occurrence: on 1983's Eliminator, the group embraced synthesizers and drum machines and shot a series of eye-catching music videos. The gamble paid off, launching the trio into the Top 10 of the pop charts with "Legs." Follow-ups Afterburner (1985) and Recycler (1990) continued the electronic trend and secured the trio an amusing cameo in Back to the Future Part III - but after that, they'd go back to down 'n' dirty rock for the rest of their careers.

READ MORE: Remember When ZZ Top Went 'Back to the Future'?

ZZ Top were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and received three Grammy Award nominations, most recently for their acclaimed documentary That Little Ol' Band from Texas.

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