I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school when my friend Andrew called me up one Saturday and said he had tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was the first major concert I went to without some adultish person with me. I got to his house and he was laying under his perpetually under repair 1988 S-10 pickup truck replacing an oil pump, covered head to toe in 10W-30. We finished slapping in the oil pump and Andrew ran inside to wipe the oil off his face and we jumped in his truck and headed for Greensboro.
Andrew's truck had a 400 small block engine in it so after nearly dying 20 times we made it to the colosseum in record time and I saw a little band out of texas for the first and only time. I couldn't believe how much sound came from just three people on the stage. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill played the biggest guitar and bass I had ever seen and then, during Legs, they started spinning them in unison. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Skynyrd put on a great show too- I had been a fan of them ever since I got my very first CD, "Lynyrd's Innyrds", but at that time hadn't really gotten into ZZ Top. They were loud, they were hairy, and they were badass.
After that show, I got my first album: Eliminator. It had Gimmie All Your Lovin, Got Me Under Pressure, Sharp Dressed Man, and Legs. It was my first real introduction to blues rock n' roll. It wouldn't be for another year or two that I really discovered Clapton and Cream. I listened straight thru that album and (literally) blew the speakers on my first CD player. Or maybe it was my brother's CD player- I can't remember. I probably owe him for that.
All of these memories came back to me in waves this afternoon when Joe Don Baker called me with the news: Dusty Hill, the wielder of that gigantic bass, hidden behind those sunglasses and long beard, passed away. He was 72 years old. At this point I don't know anything more than that- he had injured his hip recently, the second time since he broke it in 2014, and he passed away in his sleep.
In 2020, the hardest year for music that I can remember, I was unfortunately reminded not only that my heroes are human, but that many of them are aging. I actually had to check twice when I saw Dusty Hill was 72. It seems only yesterday he and his Texas bandmates were blowing my mind and my eardrums but now I look back and realize it was 21 or 22 years ago- that badass on the stage would have been about 50 years old and still killing it. As we go forward we need to make a conscious effort to appreciate these legends while they're alive, and when they pass do what I'll do this evening. I'll go home, put Eliminator on my stereo, and try like hell to bust my speakers again.
I don't think I ever paid Andrew for those tickets.
Creator: Ralph Arvesen