ZZ Top Return to the Stage After Dusty Hill’s Death
ZZ Top have resumed their 50th anniversary tour after the death of longtime bassist Dusty Hill earlier this week. The group performed Friday (July 30) night in Tuscaloosa, Ala. with their longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis stepping in to fill the void, as per Hill's directive before he passed.
As was stated earlier this week, ZZ Top intend to continue touring after the death of Hill, with singer Billy Gibbons stating that Hill had made it clear prior to stepping away from their current tour that he wanted Francis to step up and the show to go on.
Fan shot video of the band's return to the stage with Francis performing on their cover of Sam & Dave's "I Thank You" can be seen in the player at the bottom of this post.
For those wondering about Francis' credentials, Gibbons vouched for the musician in a recent interview with Variety, talking about the transition that had just been made prior to Hill leaving the tour to have hip surgery.
Gibbons recalled, "It was a direct directive from Mr. Dusty Hill. When he grabbed my arm and said, 'I think I’m due to go visit the physician to see if I can bounce back,' he said, 'In the meantime, I want you to grab our guitar technician, Mr. Elwood and take him out of that tech station and strap him up with my guitar and make him carry on with every single note.' And I said, 'Well, if that’s your wishes, I’ll respect that.' And sure enough, we’ve been very, very fortunate to have a stalwart standby to fill in."
Gibbons also shared a humorous story about the new "bearded" musician in the band, telling Variety, "What’s really got everybody on the ropes is that Elwood had been holding down the guitar technician post for 30 years as a clean-shaven young fellow. And when the lockdown was imminent, we all gathered for a band meeting, before things got too fierce. And I said, 'Dusty, it looks like we’re not going to be able to go do much or go anywhere. What do you plan to do?' And he said, 'Well, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. And that’s cut the lawn. I’m not going to cut the grass.' And I smiled and said, 'Well, I’ll join you on that.' And Elwood piped up and said, 'Well, if you guys aren’t going to cut the grass, I’m not going to cut my whiskers.' And when we regathered to commence rehearsals just a week and a half ago, here came Elwood, and I said, 'My gosh, you’ve got chin whiskers as long as me and Dusty!'"
"So when he took the stage the other night, I was looking over the front row and everybody was kind of giving each other the elbow, and they were pointing up and said, 'Look, the ZZ Top circus still rolls on. There’s another freak up there,'" laughed Gibbons. "In fact, I had to stroll over and grab him by the chin to give him a yank, just to show the audience — I said, 'Folks, this is the real deal here.'"
"He’s honoring Dusty’s wishes, and I know that, wherever Dusty may be, he’s probably smiling, just knowing that all the notes are in place and that the fierceness rolls on," added Gibbons.
When asked about Francis picking up the songs in the set, the singer-guitarist added, "Yeah, I don’t think it took 30 minutes with a coffee table rehearsal, and he kind of rolled his eyes. He said, 'Yeah, you may remember, I’ve been on the side of the stage for 30 years. I think I know it.'"