ZZ Top Call Former Manager/Producer Bill Ham Their ‘Fourth Member’
Nearly a week after the death of Bill Ham, ZZ Top have spoken at length about their former manager and producer. In a new interview, they praised his contributions, calling him their "fourth member" and a "father figure."
Speaking to Classic Rock, guitarist Billy Gibbons noted how Ham's career as a songwriter and performer in the '50s helped them grow. "[He] generously and willingly shared those techniques with us from the very beginning of his involvement in our band. So that was a very solid platform that he bought to the ZZ Top party. ... I certainly always considered him the band’s fourth member and our shining light. I mean to say, he managed to put up with the trials of dealing with three renegade individuals for more than 40 years, so that’s something in itself.”
Ham died on June 20 at his home in Austin, Texas at the age of 79. In addition to serving as ZZ Top's manager from the beginning of their career until 2006, he produced or co-produced all of their albums up through 1996's Rhythmeen. His talent as another set of ears was noted by bassist Dusty Hill.
"One thing in particular I remember was when we had recorded the songs 'Waitin’ for the Bus' and 'Jesus Just Left Chicago' for the Tres Hombres record. There was that bump in the studio that merged them together as one song, which was actually a total accident – they were meant to be separate songs. But Bill was the one who caught that and suggested we leave it be, and that was absolutely the right decision. Bill was very good at making that kind of intervention."
Frank Beard expanded on Gibbons' comments about Ham's acumen in dealing with the personalities within the group. "I truly think the band would have broken within three years if Bill hadn’t been involved. He was the guy that smoothed things out whenever we got our feathers ruffled with each other and who always encouraged us no matter what. He was our father figure, simple as that.”
Upon hearing of his passing, ZZ Top issued a brief statement: "We were saddened to hear of Bill Ham’s passing. His early vision and continuing encouragement were invaluable; his efforts and energy will always remain deeply appreciated."
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