DALLAS — So massive it will take three days of auctions to sell, the incredible collection of the late ZZ Top bassist and vocalist Dusty Hill comes to market at Julien’s Auctions Thursday, December 7, Friday, December 8 and Saturday, December 9. The nearly 1,200-plus lots are available for bidding now at LiveAuctioneers.
Hill (1949-2021), who passed away after a short illness, was a founding member of ZZ Top, the American band known for its Texas-infused blues-rock grooves and recordings that have sold 50 million worldwide. As the band’s bassist and primary singer, his passing might have been considered a death blow to the band, but co-founders Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard honored his wishes to continue, with longtime guitar technician Elwood Francis stepping in to handle bass.
The auction showcases the rock icon’s spectacular one-of-a-kind instruments, custom-made wardrobe, gear, and style items such as his favorite cowboy hats, boots, buckles, and his signature sunglasses, as well as memorabilia from his groundbreaking five-decade career. A portion of the auction proceeds will benefit the MusiCares charity.
“Dusty treasured all of the items in this auction and it means so much to me that the fans, who he loved, will have an opportunity to own something from his personal collection. He would be so happy to know that this auction will benefit other musicians in need through the efforts of MusiCares,” said Charleen “Chuck” Hill, Dusty’s widow.
The top lots on all three days are, of course, bass guitars that Hill played throughout his ZZ Top career. Perhaps most recognizable is the 1983 Dean Explorer-style bass in a sheepskin finish with the ZZ Top logo painted on the fretboard, which was featured in the music video for Legs from 1983’s Eliminator album. The Dean icon carries an estimate of $80,000-$120,000.
Retired in 2012 due to road wear, Dusty’s 1953 Fender Precision bass (serial number 970) was probably his most-played instrument, appearing on the cover of 1975’s Fandango! and on countless songs and tour appearances. “Early in ZZ Top’s career, Billy and I drove up from Houston to Dallas —this is one of those stories you always hear, but this really happened — and we went to a pawn shop called Rocky’s Pawn Shop and on the wall was a Fender bass guitar and this guy truly had no idea what he had, and I get Billy to make the deal because he’s better at that than I am. Anyway, he worked him and worked him and I got the bass for $70. We’re leaving and Billy goes ‘Nope, wait a minute, no deal. You have to throw in the case.’ So he actually threw the case in, and it was close to an original case, for $70.” The P-bass is estimated at $80,000-$120,000.
Eliminator was not just the title of the breakout 1983 multi-platinum recording, but also the name of guitarist Billy Gibbons’ 1933 Ford three-window coupe hot rod, featured prominently in the album artwork and music videos for the release. Naturally, the guitarist and bassist had to have matching guitars, so they called Wayne Charvel, famed creator of Charvel guitars used by many iconic rock musicians, to create Eliminators for their tour.
Wayne Charvel’s son, Michael, posted condolences on social media after Hill’s passing, sharing childhood memories of this bass. “The most memorable bass that my dad built for Dusty was in 1983 for the Eliminator Tour. He made a Car Guitar and a matching Car Bass for Billy and Dusty. The instruments were made to match Billy’s 33 Ford three-window coupe, known as ‘The Eliminator Coupe.’ The knock-offs on the wheels were the volume and tone control, and the tailpipes blew smoke. Those were some great memories; I remember Billy calling my dad at three am … ZZ Top was on tour in Germany. Billy said the guitars were well received, and when they shot smoke, the crowd went wild!” The Charvel is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.