mighty music

We Thank You: A Tribute to Dusty Hill (1949-2021)

What a week… seriously, it’s only Thursday and we’ve lost Mike Howe, Joey Jordison and now Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. I won’t lie, the news of Hill’s passing hit me much harder than I thought it would; I have been a big fan of ZZ Top for a very, very long time and instead of delivering an almost sterile Wikipedia overview of the bottom-end of the band, I thought I’d share my personal experiences with ZZ Top.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to see ZZ Top several times. They are a superb live band and not even a submarine door is tighter than the Little Ol’ Band from Texas. Filling out that bottom end for 50 years has been Dusty Hill, delivering an almost thankless job, but that every third bass note shuffle played by Hill became integral to the ZZ Top sound.

I’m not old enough to know ZZ Top as a stripped back Texan blues band; my first outing in ZZ Top territory came with ‘Eliminator’ and those massive MTV singles on heavy rotation: ‘Gimmie All Your Lovin’’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’… those videos where the band just oozed cool. Beards, sunglasses, random pointing, oil-stained boilersuits, that awesome red hot-rod and those girls. Damn, it was everything a teenage boy wanted, and we went through a lot of Kleenex in our house.  It was only a little later in my life which saw me working backwards through the ZZ Top catalogue and picking up the likes of ‘Tres Hombres’ and ‘Fandango!’. When it came to these albums, I always liked Billy Gibbons’ bluesy gravel, but for me, it was Hill that often stole the show with his soulful wail that was steeped with the passion of Elvis, and I always pictured myself that if I was ever in a band which covered ‘Beer Drinkers & Hail Raisers’ I would be the one which wanted to sing Hill’s parts.

You know, I once had an idea that if Heaven was real, then I knew exactly what it would look like. It would be an old pub, dingily lit with the air being thick with the cigarette smoke of a long busy night and the bar would be ticking over nicely, always able to get a pint without waiting too long. There would be a fruit machine with Lemmy stood in front of it whilst Phil Lynott flashes a roguish smile at some ladies congregated together. The Abbott brothers would be pounding shots of liquor with Jeff Hanneman and being generally loud as Kurt Cobain slumps on a bench with his arm around an equally slumped Layne Staley. But, the whole point of this tangent was that at the bottom of the pub on a tiny stage boogieing away was ZZ Top, they were playing their foot-tapping, easy drinkin’ music all night and when I think of that moment, it gives me a warm feeling that everything is going to be all right. It is that right there what ZZ Top means to me and in the middle of it all is that solid, rattlin’ backbone of Dusty Hill.

Rest In Peace

Dusty Hill (1949-2021)

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