The tragic news of Dusty Hill’s death is still reverberating around the rock community. “What an icon,” Paul Stanley wrote on Twitter. “Always a gentleman from the days of us opening for them through the recent days of them opening for us. I don’t know what to say but ‘Thank you’ and ‘Rest however you damn well choose!'”
“Met him just once,” Billy Corgan wrote, “and he couldn’t have been more kind or supportive.”
Hill had been enduring shoulder and hip issues for the past few years, and he departed the ongoing ZZ Top tour after just a couple of gigs to heal back at home. “Per Dusty’s request the show must go on!” the band said at the time. “With that directive, ZZ Top has put the services of Mr. Elwood Francis, their trusted guitar tech of the past two decades, into play with his slide guitar, bass guitar and harmonica playing in full swing.”
The band’s last gig with Hill took place on July 18th at Louisville, Kentucky’s Iroquois Amphitheater. They played a 15-song set centered largely around their hits, including “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “La Grange,” “Tush,” and “Legs.” Here is fan-shot video of “Gimme All Your Lovin.'” It’s quite likely that Hill was in pain that night, but with his face hidden behind his signature sunglasses and long beard, it’s impossible to tell.
That show marked the end of one of the single most enduring lineups in the history of rock & roll. ZZ Top’s first album in 1971 was created by Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill, and that trio remained rock solid for 50 years. That’s an absolutely astounding feat when you consider that most rock groups of that era have shifted lineups countless times.
“It’s a cliché and sounds so simplistic, but it’s down to the three of us genuinely enjoying playing together,” Hill said in 2014. “We still love it, and we still get a kick out of being onstage. We also have enough in common to maintain a bond between us but sufficient differences to keep our individuality. And after all this time, we all know what winds up the others and what makes them the people they are.”
ZZ Top will never be the same after the death of Hill, but they are carrying on following a cancellation of their gig Wednesday night in Simpsonville, South Carolina. They are slated to return Friday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and they have dates on the books through the end of the year and well into 2022. “As Dusty said upon his departure, ‘Let the show go on!'” Gibbons wrote in a text to Eddie Trunk. “And with respect, we’ll do well to get beyond this and honor his wishes.”