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Dusty Hill, bassist for iconic rock group ZZ Top, dies at 72

Hill had taken a leave of absence from the band because of a hip issue just a few days ago.
Dusty Hill of ZZ Top performs on July 26, 2017, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Dusty Hill of ZZ Top performs July 26, 2017, in Glasgow, Scotland.Gaelle Beri / Redferns via Getty Images

Dusty Hill, the bassist for the iconic rock band ZZ Top, has died just days after he took a leave of absence because of a hip issue, the group said Wednesday.

He was 72.

"We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX," said a statement posted to the group's social media feeds.

"We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the 'Top'. We will forever be connected to that 'Blues Shuffle in C.' You will be missed greatly, amigo."

The message was signed by the group's other members, drummer Frank Beard and guitarist Billy Gibbons.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, "Today we lost a great friend and a remarkable Texan."

The band had been scheduled to play Wednesday night at the CCNB Amphitheatre at Heritage Park in Simpsonville, South Carolina. A venue manager confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the show had been canceled.

The group announced Friday that Hill, its "fearless" bass player, was "on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue."

"They await a speedy recovery. ... Per Dusty's request 'The show must go on!'" last week's statement continued. "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."

Tributes from across the rock world poured in Wednesday afternoon.

"Man am I sad to hear this," Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea said in statement. "A true rocker, Dusty Hill, who laid it down deep and real. I will always listen to you, as will anyone who ever wanted to rock out, and we will all be moved."

Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley said he would cherish all the times their bands shared the stage.

"So unique. Always a gentleman from the days of us opening for them through the recent days of them opening for us," Stanley said. "I don't know what to say but 'Thank you' and 'Rest however you damn well choose!'"

Hill, born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in 1969, naming themselves in part after the 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 the Texas town of La Grange.

The Texas natives — with Gibbons and Hill sporting long, distinctive beards and the trio wearing dark sunglasses — would go on to become one of the most recognizable bands of the 1980s.

"Legs," from the "Eliminator" album, was the 60th biggest Billboard hit of 1984. But the ranking belies the song's staying power, thanks to a highly stylized music video in the art form's early years. Their videos for "Legs," "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man" would all be featured in heavy rotation on MTV in the '80s.

ZZ Top was nominated for three Grammy Awards: in 1983 for best rock performance by a group for the album "Eliminator," in 1986 in the same category for the album "Afterburner" and this year for best music film for "That Little Ol' Band From Texas."

The "Little" documentary "tells the story of how three oddball teenage bluesmen became one of the biggest, most beloved bands on the planet, all while maintaining a surrealist mystique that continues to intrigue fans and entice onlookers," according to the group.