ZZ TOP’S DUSTY HILL RIP — (Via Variety) Joseph “Dusty” Hill, ZZ Top’s bassist for more than 50 years, has died, the group’s longtime rep confirmed. No cause of death was cited.
The band’s Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard issued a statement:
“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. 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.”
Earlier this month, Gibbons and Beard played their first performances without Hill in more than 50 years, stating that the bassist had been forced to seek medical attention “to address a hip issue,” according to a statement, although his ailment was apparently more serious than they let on. “Per Dusty’s request the show must go on!,” the statement continued, and the band’s longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, filled in.
While ZZ Top was best known for their synthesizer-powered 1980’s hits, they were a thoroughly Texan, heavy rock-blues band at heart, spawned from the same psychedelic scene that birthed Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators but keeping things roots and rocking throughout their more than 50-year career, even as they incorporated synthesized rhythms into their sound in the 1980’s.
Hill was born in Dallas in 1949 and played cello in high school, which made for an easy transition to electric bass. He, his guitarist brother Rocky and future fellow ZZ Top band-mate Frank Beard, a drummer, played in local bands such as the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers and American Blues, working the same Texas touring circuits as ace guitarist Billy Gibbons’ band, the Moving Sidewalks.
The brothers parted company in 1968 over musical differences, and Hill and Beard moved to Houston, where they eventually united with Gibbons in ZZ Top. Gibbons had formed the band in 1969 and recorded a one-off independent single produced by manager Bill Ham, who would remain with them for decades. The act’s original bassist introduced the guitarist to Beard; Hill would join Gibbons and Beard for a gig in Beaumont, TX, on Feb. 10, 1970. The lineup remained the same for more than five decades: They celebrated their 50th anniversary at a San Antonio concert in February 2020.
Launched on London Records in 1971, the Houston-bred threesome secured its first major hit with the No. 8 LP “Tres Hombres” in 1973; the set included the raunchy single “La Grange,” a homage to the Chicken Ranch, the notorious bordello in the like-named Texas city. Another top 10 album, “Fandango!,” followed in 1975, powered by the FM-staple single “Tush.” Half of that album was recorded live in New Orleans, and captured the band’s powerful blues-rock groove.
By the end of the 70’s, ZZ Top’s potent brand of gutsy, no-frills blues ‘n’ boogie had made it one of America’s top concert attractions; its elaborate 1976 Worldwide Texas Tour featured actual livestock on stage. They moved from London Records to Warner Bros. in 1979 for “Degüello,” which shifted 1 million copies.
While the popularity of “Degüello” hinted at bigger things to come, “El Loco” (1981) introduced both the sound and the look that would put the band over the top. The first hints of the sonic manipulation that would take center stage on “Eliminator” were heard on that set. Also, two years of tonsorial neglect between tours resulted in Gibbons’ and Hill’s long beards, which graced the album’s cover.
But it moved to another level of popularity with 1983’s “Eliminator,” which found Gibbons and his band mates experimenting with new technologies – guitar loops, manipulated vocals and synthesized bass and drums — that refreshed their sound.
The breakout success of three “Eliminator” singles – “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” – and their accompanying videos, which featured car aficionado Gibbons’ like-named 1934 Ford coupe, lofted the band to a new level of commercial success and popular ubiquity. In the wake of “Recycler,” the band was cast as themselves in Bob Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future III” (1990).
“Eliminator” peaked at No. 9 and spent a remarkable 183 weeks on the American album charts, ultimately receiving diamond certification for sales of more than 10 million copies. The megahit album was succeeded by the quintuple-platinum “Afterburner” (1985) and the million-selling “Recycler” (1990).
In 1994, ZZ Top exited Warner Bros. for a highly publicized $35 million pact with RCA Records. With that move, Gibbons took on co-production duties with the band’s manager Bill Ham, who had helmed their studio work since the group’s debut single. The immediate result was the platinum album “Antenna.” Gibbons took the solo production reins on the group’s last two RCA releases, “XXX” (1999) and “Mescalero” (2003), and co-produced “La Futura” (2012) with Rick Rubin for his American Recordings imprint.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
PR-pasha David Salidor worked at London Records (a really great label-they also had The Rolling Stones and Moody Blues) recalls that Hill was always a gentleman. “The band was just getting out of the gate; they had a fiery manager Bill Ham, who pushed just like a manger should and the band had just a great attitude. That tour with the livestock was pretty amazing. I still hear stories about it today. ZZ Top will endure I’m sure, but Hill will be missed.”
RYAN’S RAP — (Via Variety) Ryan Adams, the singer-songwriter who has been largely persona non grata in the music business since multiple women alleged abuse beginning in early 2019, has taken to Instagram to beg record labels for “a second chance to make some music,” saying he is “scared” he will lose his home, his studio and his indie label in the coming months.
The desperate tone in Adams’ Instagram posts has been evident for weeks, but came to a head in messages he posted early Tuesday, in which he said he expected to be homeless soon and implored labels to “help other people believe you can get up out of the gutter” by helping him release music.
“I know I’m damaged goods,” he wrote. “I know I am and they aren’t the ideal thing, but I had a label interested for months and they wasted my time. I’m months from losing my label, studio and my home. I just really want a second chance to make some music — maybe help other people believe you can get up out of the gutter and be something. I’m 46 and scared I’m gonna be living in my sister’s basement. If you are a label and interested, please let me know. Sent with love and humility. I already got dropped by Capitol twice. Maybe someone still cares.” Another post read, “Please if someone takes a chance on me and this music, I’ll bust my ass to support it. Sorry to sound desperate.”
These latest messages follow a post earlier in July (since deleted, but captured in screen shots) in which he spoke about his cat dying and lamented, “I have no record deal. I’m kinda broke. I have no friends…”
Adams’ release schedule of late has actually not been that light. On his own PAX AM independent label, he has released two albums in the last eight months — “Wednesdays” in December, and “Big Colors” in June — both of which had been scheduled to come out on Blue Note/Capitol before he got dropped. These two recent releases charted in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands but failed to chart in America or the U.K.
Adams faces a limit to the sympathetic ears on which his pleas will fall, given his status as one of the music industry’s foremost emblems of #MeToo after a New York Times investigative report published Feb. 19, 2019, and other tales that followed. Among those speaking to the Times then was his former wife, Mandy Moore, and singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. Although the stories women told about Adams differed, a commonality among several was that he would pursue romantic and sexual relationships with female artists he produced or promised to produce, then grow emotionally abusive or disappear and put a halt on projects. (Adams was also revealed by the Times to be under investigation by the FBI for a sexually explicit online relationship with a minor. His reps maintained he did not know the girl was underage; in January 2021 the New York Post’s Page Six quoted a source as saying the FBI had closed the investigation with no charges filed in late 2019.)
In July 2020, Adams wrote an open apology letter, without addressing any allegations. “There are no words to express how bad I feel about the ways I’ve mistreated people throughout my life and career,” he wrote a year ago. “All I can say is that I’m sorry. It’s that simple. This period of isolation and reflection made me realize that I needed to make significant changes in my life. … That being said, no amount of growth will ever take away the suffering I had caused. I will never be off the hook and I am fully accountable for my harmful behavior, and will be for my actions moving forward.” Moore and another artist who’d said she had a “traumatizing experience” with Adams, Karen Elson, both responded by saying that Adams would be better off starting with private amends instead of making a blanket apology.
In Tuesday’s posts, Adams has used Instagram to name some of the many famously unreleased albums from his vault that he would like an outside label’s help in releasing and promoting, on top of newly recorded projects. “Any labels, I have Blackhole, Exile on Meryl Streep and TWO new albums ready to go. Also the CHRIS double LP,” he wrote.
The chronology of what Adams is trying to pitch record labels on in his posts is confusing. In a 2014 NPR story, Adams spoke about the “Blackhole” album, which then looked imminent for release; it was described as dating back to before 2007 and was described as “the last record I made when I was on drugs.” However, in his new posts, Adams describes “Blackhole” by saying, “I wrote this album when I knew it was inevitable, I would get divorced,” and he included lyrics and a sound file describing a marriage in crisis. Adams and Moore did not even marry until 2009 and divorced in 2016, rendering the conflicting timelines for the project somewhat puzzling.
In other posts in early July, he posted photos of the jacket art for some of his most-loved past albums, saying they were “for sale.” With certain caveats; of “Cold Roses,” he added, “if you can get the masters… good luck.”
Although many of Adams’ supporters have cut their fandom loose in the wake of the scandal, some have held on, offering support or advice in his Instagram comments. Several have suggested he find a more practical new model for releasing his music to still-hardcore fans, like crowdsourcing, subscriptions or Patreon, to which the singer has not offered a response.
Adams is also publicly soliciting book publishers on Instagram. “Anybody who makes coffee table books out there who wants to take all these notebooks and do something?” he wrote. “Looking for a book company that wants to take my handwritten lyrics from all my songs into a book (maybe offer an unreleased album inside — Blackhole)?”
Adams has not done any public concerts that are registered on setlists.fm since headlining Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre in June 2018.
“I don’t have my old master tapes or recordings (they don’t care/answer my people),” he wrote in the deleted early July post, “SO….if ANYBODY CAN HELP ME…please. I would love to make albums. Or just own a home (I don’t own a home). This is stupid. I miss Theo. I’m mad. I’ve had enough.”
I like Ryan Adams, I always have, but the disclosures of his private life are totally unsettling for sure. He’ had some major support, from the likes of Elton John, but these recent posts seem to come from an individual who is in dire need of some help. I hope he gets it.
SHORT TAKES — No doubt you’ve heard about Scarlett Johansson suing Disney over her Black Widow movie. Here’s a great piece about it all: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/scarlett-johansson-sues-disney-over-183140317.html The issue of releasing movies in theaters and on streaming services was a tipping point for sure. Johannson is the first actor to make a move like this (believe me, they’re all waiting to do this) and the pundits seem to be split. Half think it is justified, while the other half do wonder what this will do to her standing in the community. She’s been in 9 Marvel movies; billions have been made … but, the Black Widow franchise seems to have closed with the character’s demise in Avengers Endgame. To me, the real issue is the fact that if the numbers of Disney+ went up, certain employees would be richly rewarded. That doesn’t seem to be right at all to me. Disney, in their response, also outed her salary; always an awkward think to do and also alluded to her attitude (“selfish”) in a post-COVID world – also, a rather awkward step to take. Johannson’s agent, the much-feared Bryan Lourd of CAA, even came out with a missive in her defense. CAA taking on Disney too seems like a very-calculated move. All in all, if there was ever a time for the actress to do something like this, it’s now. My prediction: Disney will throw another 20 million or so at her and everything will be fine. I could be wrong, but if the money keeps coming in (and, yes, the Black Widow character could go on and on) everyone will be happy. Remember, nothing succeeds like success … Johnny Ventura, the famed merenque pioneer and former mayor of Santo Domingo, died Wednesday at 81 …
The second trailer for the next Batman re-boot, The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the Bat, was released this week. Here it is:
John Doherty’s superb Blackbarn restaurant re-opens this week in NoMad NYC … Don’t forget Robert Miller and his Project Grand Slam ensemble Tuesday, August 17th, at a benefit in Lenox, Massachusetts for Shakespeare & Co. … FYI: I did learn one rather startling fact from my Verizon-visits a weeks ago: Just because you have a 5G phone, doesn’t mean you’ll have access to a 5G network. Turns out, you have to have a 5G plan too. Man, they don’t tell you that in the commercials …
HAPPY BDAY WAYNE AVERS; ANDREW FRIEDMAN; and EVE MUELLER!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Danny Fried; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Rick James; Steve Walter; Eppy; Buddy Blanchard; Barry Fisch; Richard Branciforte; Susan Hathaway; Lush Ice; Mark Bego; Tony King; Jane Blunkell; Michelle Grant; Dan Mapp; Rich Dart; and, ZIGGY!