Hill, Arzell [Z.Z.] (1935–1984)

By: Juan Carlos Rodríguez

Type: Biography

Published: November 28, 2006

Updated: July 20, 2020

Soul, blues, and rhythm-and-blues singer Arzell (Z.Z.) Hill was born in Naples, Texas, on September 30, 1935. He was the son of Matthew W. Hill and Malisia (Woods) Hill. He devised a combination of blues and contemporary soul styling and helped to restore the blues to modern black consciousness. In 1954, at the age of nineteen, Hill went to Dallas, where he began his musical career by singing with a gospel quintet known as the Spiritual Five. He moved to California in 1963 and cut his first single, "You Were Wrong," in a garage studio the next year. The song reached the Billboard pop chart and stayed there for a week.

After a few other recordings that proved to be commercially unsuccessful, Hill continued to perform but did not make another album until 1972, when he signed with United Artists. He recorded three albums and six rhythm-and-blues singles with the label. In 1977 he signed with Columbia and recorded his best-selling hit, "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It." In 1980 he signed with Malaco Records. Two years later, he produced the album Down Home Blues, the title song of which became one of the most popular blues songs of the 1980s. The album sold well, remaining on Billboard's soul album chart for almost two years. Hill produced his final album, Bluesmaster, in 1984. It comprised a mixture of soul and blues sounds.

In February of that year Hill was involved in a car accident. On April 23 he gave his last performance, at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. He died four days later, on April 27, 1984, from complications stemming from a blood clot that had formed in his leg after the car accident. He was buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Naples, Texas.

“Arzell ‘Z. Z.’ Hill,” Find A Grave Memorial (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=54246069), accessed November 4, 2015. Dallas Morning News, April 28, 1984. Frank Scott, The Down Home Guide to the Blues (Chicago: A Cappella, 1991).

  • Music
  • Genres (Blues)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Juan Carlos Rodríguez, “Hill, Arzell [Z.Z.],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hill-arzell-zz.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 28, 2006
July 20, 2020

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