ZZ Top are continuing to tour following the death of Dusty Hill, an order that came directly from the bassist prior to his passing. And, as luck would have it, the man taking his place just happens to have a classic ZZ Top-style beard.
Elwood Francis, the band’s long-tenured guitar tech, will be replacing Hill in the iconic group. For 30 years he’s worked with the band, and remained clean-shaven only until recently.
“When the lockdown was imminent, we all gathered for a band meeting, before things got too fierce,” frontman Billy Gibbons recalled to Variety. “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.’
Gibbons was on board with the idea as well. “I smiled and said, ‘Well, I’ll join you on that,’” the frontman confirmed.
At that point, Francis, who was also in the meeting, offered up his own variation on the pact. “Well, if you guys aren’t going to cut the grass, I’m not going to cut my whiskers,” Gibbons recalled the guitar tech declaring.
When the band got together following lockdown, they were shocked at Francis’ transformation.
“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!,’” Gibbons proclaimed.
Now, Hill’s initial injury and subsequent death has brought Francis to the stage, and fans can’t help but notice the facial hair similarities.
“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,’” Gibbons noted. “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.’”
Beard or not, Gibbons is just happy that Hill’s final wish is being honored.
“Wherever Dusty may be, he’s probably smiling, just knowing that all the notes are in place and that the fierceness rolls on.”
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