- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 31, 2021

ZZ Top performed as scheduled Friday evening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, less than 72 hours after the rock band announced the death of Joseph “Dusty” Hill, the group’s bassist for more than a half-century.

Elwood Francis, ZZ Top’s longtime guitar tech, filled in for Mr. Hill during the concert, the group’s first performance on stage since its members announced the death of their bandmate Wednesday afternoon.

“Dusty gave me the directive,” ZZ Top founder, guitarist and singer Billy Gibbons said on stage during the show. “My friend, your pal, Elwood Francis is going to hold down the bottom end,” he told fans.

“How ‘bout that Elwood tearing up that bottom end for Dusty,” Mr. Gibbons said in another clip from the show that was shared online afterward.

Mr. Hill joined ZZ Top shortly after Mr. Gibbons formed the group in 1969 in Houston, Texas. Along with drummer Frank Beard, the trio performed together for more than 50 years prior to the bassist’s passing.

ZZ Top had been touring to commemorate the group’s 50th anniversary together when the band announced last Friday, July 23, that Mr. Hill had “to address a hip issue” and that Mr. Francis would be filling in.

Five days later, ZZ Top announced Wednesday that Mr. Hill died in his sleep at his home in Houston at the age of 72. The group canceled a show planned for that evening but was back on stage two nights later.

Within hours of ZZ Top announcing Mr. Hill‘s death, Mr. Gibbons, 71, said his longtime musical collaborator had instructed him: “Let the show go on!”

Mr. Hill “emphatically grabbed my arm and said, ‘Give Elwood the bottom end and take it to the Top’,” Mr. Gibbons said in a message to a friend Wednesday that was shared online after and verified as authentic.

ZZ Top is currently scheduled to continue its 50th-anniversary tour with dozens of performances throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2021 and 2022, including next a show set for Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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