Why ZZ TOP Won't Ever Retire

July 31, 2023

In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, ZZ TOP frontman Billy Gibbons was asked how he and his bandmates will approach a possible farewell tour when the time comes. He responded: "I borrow the conversation from an exchange I was able to enjoy with Keith Richards. He said, 'Man, if we're lucky enough to follow the words of Muddy Waters, he said, 'Do it until you die.'' Of course, Muddy Waters was lucky enough to do just that. He was playing right up until the end. So we should be fortunate, I guess."

Last September, Gibbons told Classic Rock that ZZ TOP that he and drummer Frank Beard had a discussion about their future plans after the "totally unexpected" July 2021 death of their longtime bandmate, bassist Dusty Hill.

"Although Dusty had his bouts with this and that, he seemed to bounce back each time," Gibbons said. "And in fact when we were preparing for the tour we had a seven-days planned rehearsal and everything was straight ahead. Dusty wasn’t really out of sorts until we showed up for the first performance. We got through the evening but I could tell he wasn’t a hundred percent. And finally he said: 'I'd like to take a moment and go see the physician and see if we can iron out what's got me on the ropes.' He returned to Texas and made an appointment to see the doc. And it was that night he went to sleep and it was… lights out. It was just… it was totally unexpected."

Regarding ZZ TOP's decision to hire the band's longtime guitar tech Elwood Francis, who has worked with ZZ TOP for more than two decades, to step in for Hill, Gibbons said: "Well, it was an unexpected reality that landed not only in my lap, but allowed me to hunker down and get serious with Mister Beard. And the two of us both agreed that as an honor to the legacy of the band, we felt it would be more suitable to try to pick up sticks and carry on, rather than just throw in the towel. And fortunately, with the arrival of Elwood Francis that possibility became a reality. And here we are today having as much fun up there on stage as we ever have."

ZZ TOP played its first show following Hill's death on July 30, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Francis made his live debut with ZZ TOP on July 23, 2021 at the Village Commons in New Lenox, Illinois after Hill was forced to return to Texas to address a hip issue.

Hill joined ZZ TOP a year after its formation in 1969.

Back in 2017, Gibbons told Panhandle PBS that there were no thoughts given to a possible retirement. "The needle is at 'F' and we're still out there on the track, sometimes lapping ourselves," he said. "'Retirement'? We don't know the meaning of the word, but it does include 'tire' so, rest assured, we've got plenty of tread left."

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