The Now Spinning Community Remembers ZZ Top Bass Player Dusty Hill
A Bass Sound like Giant Electrical Cables hitting a steel wall
Like many fans, my gateway to ZZ Top was from the Eliminator album and those three iconic videos. Back then every guitar player seemed to be judged on how many notes per second they could play!
Here was a band where the guitar player seemed to miss out most of the notes!. Billy Gibbons ensured every note was on target and holding everything up was the bass sound of Dusty Hill.
You could almost visualise the bass strings moving as Dusty’s fingers plucked them. Dusty’s bass sounded like giant electrical cables hitting a steel wall, like rumbling thunder his sound gave Billy the space to stretch out and shine. Today I will be playing my favourite ZZ Top albums Rhythmeen and Tres Hombres.
ZZ Top and I go way back, back to my young days in middle school. They were a highly valued symbol of Texas as were the Alamo, Dallas Cowboys sports team and the television show Dallas. Everyone knew ZZ Top.
For some years, I lived in Houston, their old stomping grounds, and it was not uncommon to see the band members around the city, cruising around town in their classic cars and sitting in courtside seats at Houston Rockets pro basketball games.
For a native Texan, those songs held a greater meaning cause we knew the true meaning of “I Heard It On The X”(for high powered radio stations based in Mexico known for playing blues and R&B music while most US radio stations would not and their broadcast signals would reach as far north as Chicago), or several songs that refer Highway-6, more accurately State Highway-6, a rural roadway that linked the west part of Houston northwest to Waco.
We not only know the words to the song LaGrange but we know the unbelievably true story about the Chicken Ranch brothel there. If you had ever seen the musical “Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, it only scratches the surface to the Chicken Ranch legend.
ZZ Top was the third leg on the Texas Music stool; the other two legs are Willie Nelson and George Strait. They promoted the state’s image to the world on its World Texas Tour 1978 where they travelled with actual cactus plants, Longhorn cattle and rattlesnakes onstage.
Dusty played himself on a few episodes of the cartoon “King Of The Hill” where he plays a cousin to the series’ lead character. The band had just returned to full-time touring this spring. Where do they go from here? I don’t think they can carry on without Dusty.
The star in the Lone Star state flag is much dimmer right now.
I remember my elder brother coming home and saying “listen to this” it was “La Grange” from Tres Hombres. One of those songs and moments I will always remember.
Oh my goodness I’m so saddened by the news that Dusty has left us. An essential and totally irreplaceable component of one of the greatest bands ever. I’m so glad I got to see them live, they were absolute top, top drawer. Despite the iconic ZZ imagery, Dusty wasn’t a guy who projected a styled image of himself; what you saw was exactly what you got. Just an awesome all-time hero of mine. Awful news. RIP and thanks so much Dusty. You made a difference.
I was like many my age first introduced to ZZ Top with the Eliminator album and I remember loving how they’d made blues rock cool. At the time I was just started writing songs with a friend from school and our first complete song was definitely influenced by that laid back blues shuffle of ZZ. A few months later a guy who was a friend of my mum and dad gave me the first two Aerosmith and ZZ Top albums. Those four albums definitely had an impact on me and taught me alot about letting songs ‘breath’ yet still be powerful. RIP Dusty.
The Legend that is Paul Bell led a merry band to Dublin in the mid ’80s to see ZZTop in a tiny Hall. No light show , no smoke and most of us had barely even heard Eliminator, but what a show! Still one of the best concerts i was ever at!
I first heard ZZ Top away back around 1979, when Deguello came out. We had a local library that loaned out records and this was one of them. I was a fan after the first listen. Here was a band that sounded nothing like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Stranglers and the other stuff I was listening to at the time. What really impressed me was the rhythm playing. These guys were tight, funky, bluesy, rocky and had a sense of swing that few other bands I was listening to back then had.
Eliminator had come out and Gimme All Your Loving was not the hit it became after the video appeared on MTV, so there was not much interest in the band in general. I saw an ad in the NME(most likely) that mentioned an upcoming gig in Dublin, in the St Francis Xavier Hall, a small gym sized venue that was as far from the stadium sized venues they were used to playing in. I told a couple of mates, Roy and Jeremy and we headed down to see them. The crowd gathered outside the venue had some real hard core long term fans who had grown big long beards and wore boiler suits with badges on them. We got right up to the front and had a great view of the band as they played an amazing show. They basically were grinning and loving the place and crowd the whole way through the gig.
The next time I saw them was on the Afterburner tour. This was a different sort of affair. The venue was the huge RDS Showground, again in Dublin. The place was packed with folks who only knew the Eliminator singles and only got really excited when the Top played them. Songs like Ten Foot Pole(which was even better in concert than the album version) went right over their heads. With the Kinks, who were truly amazing, as support they had to really give their best to win the day.
Cork, the big tent, was the next time I saw them. This was also the only time I got a press pass……and I only got that as Mojo magazine had used a Frankie Goes to Hollywood photo they wanted for a story they ran and they sort of owed me. I went down with my mate Roy, again, and they put on a truly excellent show that had basically the same setlist as that from the first time we saw them. If it ain’t broke why fix it? The onstage telepathy and great chemistry were in full force and they delivered the same goods with genuine passion, tone and tenacity.
What a band. Until now, the longest running unchanged lineup band ever in rock history.