Z. Z. Hill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Z. Z. Hill
Birth name Arzell J. Hill
Born (1935-09-30)September 30, 1935
Naples, Texas, United States
Died April 27, 1984(1984-04-27) (aged 48)
Dallas, Texas, US
Genres Blues, soul
Instruments Vocals
Years active Late 1950s – 1984
Labels M.H., Hill, Kent, Mankind, United Artists, Columbia, Malaco, Rare Bullet

Arzell J. Hill (September 30, 1935 – April 27, 1984),[1] known as Z. Z. Hill (pronounced "Zee Zee..."), was an American blues singer best known for his recordings in the 1970s and early 1980s, including his 1982 album for Malaco Records, Down Home, which stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years.[1] The track "Down Home Blues" has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s.[2] According to the Texas State Historical Association, Hill "devised a combination of blues and contemporary soul styling and helped to restore the blues to modern black consciousness."[3]


Born in Naples, Texas, Hill began his singing career in the late 1950s as part of a gospel group called The Spiritual Five, touring Texas. He was influenced by Sam Cooke, B. B. King, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, and began performing his own songs and others in clubs in and around Dallas, including spells fronting bands led by Bo Thomas and Frank Shelton. He took his stage name in emulation of B. B. King.[1][3]

Encouraged by Otis Redding who had seen him perform, he joined his older brother, budding record producer Matt Hill, in Los Angeles in 1963, and released his first single, "You Were Wrong", on the family's own M.H. label. It spent one week at no.100 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964, and Hill was quickly signed by Kent Records.[1] Most of his records for Kent were written or co-written by Hill, and arranged by leading saxophonist Maxwell Davis. None charted, but in retrospect many, such as "I Need Someone (To Love Me)", are now viewed with high regard by soul fans.[4][5]

After leaving Kent in 1968, he recorded briefly for Phil Walden's Macon, Georgia based Capricorn label, but after a disagreement with Walden his recording contract was bought by Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams' Mankind label, where Hill finally fulfilled his end of the deal. He returned to California to record for his brother's Hill label, and the song "Don't Make Me Pay For His Mistakes", co-produced by Matt Hill and Miles Grayson, became his biggest pop hit, reaching no.62 on the Hot 100. The Kent label reissued his 1964 recording of "I Need Someone", which also charted. Williams also recorded Hill in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1971, resulting in several R&B hits including "Chokin' Kind" and "It Ain't No Use", as well as the LP The Brand New Z. Z. Hill.[6][7]

With his brother's help, Hill then signed to United Artists, where he was aided by arrangements and compositions by established R&B talents including Lamont Dozier and Allen Toussaint, and released several singles that made the R&B chart in the mid 1970s. After his brother Matt's sudden death from a heart attack, Z. Z. Hill left United Artists and signed with Columbia Records, recording two albums with leading arranger-producer, Bert de Coteaux in New York. Several singles taken from the albums charted, including "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It", which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the summer of 1977.[1]

In 1979, he left Columbia and returned south, signing for Malaco Records, a move which, according to Allmusic writer Bill Dahl, "managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire [blues] genre at large".[1] His first hit for the label was his recording of songwriter George Jackson's "Cheating In The Next Room," which was released in early 1982 and broke into the R&B top 20, spending a total of 20 weeks on the chart. He had a number of best-selling albums on Malaco, the biggest being Down Home, which stayed on Billboard's soul album chart for nearly two years; the song "Down Home Blues", again written by Jackson, was later recorded by label-mate Denise LaSalle.[1] Hill's next album, The Rhythm & The Blues in 1982, was also received with critical acclaim, and its success contributed to the subsequent boom in blues music, much of it recorded by the Malaco label, in Jackson, Mississippi.[1][3][7]

While touring in February 1984, Hill was involved in a car accident. Although he continued to perform, he died two months later at the age of 48, from a heart attack arising from a blood clot formed after the accident.[2][3][8]

Hill's song, "That Ain't the Way You Make Love", was sampled by Madvillain in their track, "Fancy Clown".[citation needed]


Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[9] US
1964 "You Were Wrong" 100 n/a[10]
1971 "Don't Make Me Pay For His Mistakes" 62 17
"I Need Someone (To Love Me)" 86 30
"Chokin' Kind" - 30
1972 "Second Chance" - 39
"It Ain't No Use" - 34
1973 "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" - 37
"I Don't Need Half A Love" - 63
1974 "Let Them Talk" - 74
"Am I Groovin' You" - 84
"I Keep On Lovin' You" - 39
1975 "I Created A Monster" - 40
1977 "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It" - 15
1978 "This Time They Told The Truth" - 42
1982 "Cheating In The Next Room" - 19
1984 "Get A Little, Give A Little" - 85


  • Whole Lot of Soul (Kent, 1969)
  • Brand New Z.Z. Hill (Mankind, 1971)
  • The Bluest Blues (Excello, 1971)
  • Dues Paid In Full (Kent, 1972)
  • The Best Thing That's Happened To Me (United Artists, 1973)
  • Z.Z. Hill (United Artists, 1974)
  • Keep On Loving You (United Artists, 1975)
  • Let's Make A Deal (Columbia, 1977)
  • The Mark of Z.Z. Hill (Columbia, 1979)
  • Z.Z. Hill (Malaco, 1981)
  • Down Home (Malaco, 1982)
  • The Rhythm & The Blues (Malaco, 1982)
  • I'm A Blues Man (Malaco, 1983)
  • Bluesmaster (Malaco, 1984)
  • Thrill On The Hill (Rare Bullet, 1984)
  • In Memoriam (Malaco, 1985)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Bill Dahl, "Z.Z. Hill", Allmusic. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  2. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 117. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  3. ^ a b c d "HILL, ARZELL (Z.Z.)", Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  4. ^ Z. Z. Hill at SoulBluesMusic. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  5. ^ Liner notes for The Down Home Soul Of Z Z Hill, Ace Records. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  6. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 192. 
  7. ^ a b "Z. Z. Hill", SirShambling.com. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  8. ^ Dead Rock Stars Club data - accessed January 2008
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 315. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  10. ^ No Billboard R&B chart was published between November 1963 and January 1965.
  11. ^ Discography at SoulfulBluesMusic. Retrieved 28 March 2014

External links[edit]