In a Facebook post Wednesday, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard said Hill died in his sleep. They didn’t give a cause of death, but a July 21 post on the band’s website said Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue.” At that time, the band said that its longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, would fill in on bass, slide guitar and harmonica.
Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, he, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in 1969, naming themselves in part after blues singer Z.Z. Hill and influenced by the British power trio Cream. Their debut release, “ZZ Top’s First Album,” came out in 1970. Three years later, they broke through commercially with “La Grange,” a funky blues song in the style of Slim Harpo’s ”Shake Your Hips” that paid tribute to the Chicken Ranch, a notorious brothel outside of the Texas town of La Grange.
The band went on to have such hits as “Tush” in 1975, and the 1980s songs “Sharp Dressed Man,” ”Legs,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Sleeping Bag.” The band’s 1976 “Worldwide Texas Tour,” with its iconic Texas-shaped stage festooned with cactuses, snakes and longhorn cattle, was one of the decade’s most successful rock tours. Their million-selling albums included ”Eliminator,” “Afterburner” and “Antenna.”
ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, introduced by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
“These cats are steeped in the blues, so am I,” Richards said. “These cats know their blues and they know how to dress it up. When I first saw them, I thought, ‘I hope these guys are not on the run, because that disguise is not going to work.’”
That look, with all three members wearing dark sunglasses and Gibbons and Hill sporting long, wispy beards, became so familiar, in part thanks to their MTV videos in the 1980s, that it was the subject of a New Yorker cartoon and a joke on “The Simpsons.”
An earlier version of this story was corrected to reflect that ZZ Top was formed in 1969, not the late 1970s.
Original story provided by the Associated Press