Bill Ham, Longtime Manager for ZZ Top, Dies at 79

Robert Knight Archive/Redferns
ZZ Top (Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons) in 1994

The man who helped shape ZZ Top's sound and career since the very beginning, Bill Ham, passed away in his sleep on Monday at the age of 79. 

Ham is heralded as an innovator in the music business and praised for his modest demeanor that preferred attention be focused on his artists rather than himself. 

Born in Waxahachie, Texas, Ham's career began as a Dot Recording artist with a single produced by Pat Boone. From there, he worked early on as a record promoter for Bud Dailey Distributing in Dallas before meeting Billy Gibbons, who at the time fronted a Houston-based psych rock group called Moving Sidewalks. Ham had seen the group open a concert for the Doors in 1968 and formed Lone Wolf Management to manage them. When that outfit disbanded, Gibbons and Ham continued their relationship to the next project, ZZ Top. 

Throughout ZZ Top's iconic career, Ham acted often as the group's producer and occasionally as a songwriting partner. Their long and fruitful business relationship ended in 2006. 

"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," the members of ZZ Top said in a statement after hearing of Ham's death.  

Ham's legacy also includes massive success in the world of publishing. In addition to owning ZZ Top's publishing rights, he also created Hamstein Music, which he built into one of the world's top publishing companies with a over 100 top ten singles in country music from 1987 to today and 60 No. 1 records penned by writers with the company. Those writers include Hayden Nicholas, Frankie Miller, members of Little Texas, Tom Shapiro, Chris Waters, Rick Giles and Chuck Jones, to name a few, as well as Clint Black who Ham discovered and helped develop to country stardom. 

In January 2002, Ham sold Hamstein Music's copyrights and publishing assets to Mosaic Media Group in a multi-million dollar transaction.

Most recently, Ham launched a new publishing company called Wolftracks Music that signed songwriters Presley Tucker and Spencer Bartoletti, professionally known as the group Reverie Lane. He also was as investor and associate producer of the stage play A Night with Janis Joplin.


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