“I Shouldn’t Be in the Band”: Dusty Hill’s Replacement Struggles to Process His “Weird” Place in ZZ Top

For over 50 years, ZZ Top showcased their love for genres like Southern rock, blues rock, and hard rock. If it dealt with rock, ZZ Top most likely covered it throughout the band’s time on stage. Consisting of Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill, the group released several hit albums like Rio Grande Mud, Tejas, and Eliminator. But that all changed when Hill needed to take some time off to recover from an illness. Calling on Elwood Francis to fill in, his temporary spot became permanent when Hill suddenly passed away in 2021. Taking over for the past three years, Francis recently explained how he isn’t “in the band.” 

Videos by American Songwriter

Discussing his history with ZZ Top, Francis explained to Guitar World how his career with the group started. “When I first started doing it, Dusty was just sick and going home for a few weeks. It was entirely different; I was just helping out.” He added, “I didn’t have to worry about the weight of the crown, because I was just helping. They pulled me aside and said, ‘Can you honestly say you can’t play his parts?’ I said, ‘I can do it – but I don’t think people would enjoy me doing it.’ They said, ‘You can cover him for a few weeks.’”

[RELATED: Watch ZZ Top’s Elwood Francis Play 17-String Bass for “Got Me Under Pressure”]

Elwood Francis Still Not Comfortable

Although planning to be with ZZ Top for a few weeks, his position became permanent when Hill passed away. No longer a placeholder, Francis admitted to not being comfortable with his part. “We’d done some gigs when Dusty passed… by that time, I wouldn’t say I was comfortable – because I’m still not f**king comfortable. I had a piece of paper on the riser for the first two shows if I got in trouble; and by the third show I got rid of that, and just did the show.”

Respecting the legacy that Hill left behind when he passed, Francis still considers him the bass player for ZZ Top. “It’s just weird. Dusty is their bass player. I’m not the bass player. I’m not in the band. I’ll never be in the band. I shouldn’t be… It’s Dusty’s thing. Sure, I’ll still play with them – but it’s a weird thing, man.”

(Larry Marano/Shutterstock)

Leave a Reply

The Story Behind “Instant Crush,” a Stroke of Genius by Daft Punk Featuring Julian Casablancas

Brian May Recalls His Anxiety When Writing Songs for Queen

“My Band’s Gonna Hate It”: Brian May Recalls the “Complete Insecurity” He Suffered While Writing This Queen Classic