Dimebag Darrell

Pantera

Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell (1966 – 2004), was an American guitarist and founding member of the groove metal band Pantera, as well as Damageplan. Abbott also contributed to the record Rebel Meets Rebel, a collaboration between Pantera and outlaw country music singer David Allan Coe.

Darrell is considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal (a subgenre of heavy metal characterized by a slightly slower tempo than most metal). Abbott was shot and killed while on stage during a Damageplan performance on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio.

Darrell was born to Carolyn and Jerry Abbott, a country musician and producer. He met his long time girlfriend Rita Haney in the third grade. He took up guitar when he was 13, and his first guitar was a Hondo Les Paul he got with a small amp. He won the guitar he is most known for, a Dean Guitars ML, at a local guitar competition held at The Agora Ballroom in Dallas. He sold the ML to luthier [guitar designer] Buddy Blaze who installed a Floyd Rose bridge on it (a type of locking vibrato arm to add wobble) and gave it Dimebag’s signature lighting bolt paint job and then gave it back to him years later. Coincidentally, his father had bought him a cherryburst finish Dean ML standard the morning before the competition.

Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. The band played with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth, Venom, and Metallica, as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest. Thrash metal is characterized by a fast tempo and aggression. Pantera subsequently became a key formulator of the post-thrash subgenre of ‘groove’ metal. It would not be until nine years after forming that Pantera saw its first commercial success in its 1990 major label debut, ‘Cowboys from Hell.’ Pantera’s ‘groove’ style came to fruition in its breakthrough album ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ released in 1992, which saw the replacement of the power metal falsetto vocals with a hardcore-influenced shouted delivery and heavier guitar sound.

In 1994, Abbott dropped the nickname ‘Diamond Darrell’ (after original Van Halen lead vocalist ‘Diamond’ David Lee Roth,) and assumed the nickname ‘Dimebag Darrell.’ Pantera began to suffer from mounting tensions between band members in the mid-1990s, largely due to vocalist Phil Anselmo’s rampant drug abuse. In 2001 the group went on an extended hiatus but never formally broke up. Anselmo left the band for other projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down. After a year, brothers Vinnie and ‘Dimebag’ formed Damageplan, a heavy metal band which also used the Pantera-style groove metal sound. The Abbott brothers recruited former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman on vocals, and Bob Zilla on bass. Damageplan released its debut album ‘New Found Power’ in the United States in 2004.

Shortly before singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Abbott was invited by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth. Abbott was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hired his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine had already hired drummer Nick Menza, Abbott stayed with Pantera. In 1992, Pantera teamed up with Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) for a track called ‘Light Comes Out of Black.’ Abbott played all the guitar parts, Rex Brown played bass, Vinnie Paul played drums, Rob Halford sang lead vocals, and Philip Anselmo sang backing vocals. In 1996, Abbott contributed the Ace Frehley song ‘Fractured Mirror’ to the Ace tribute album ‘Spacewalk: A Salute To Ace Frehley.’ Abbott once said in a ‘Guitar World’ interview that if there were no Ace Frehley, there would have been no ‘Dimebag’ Darrell – he even had a tattoo of the KISS guitarist on his chest. Frehley signed the tattoo in pen ink upon meeting him, at Dimebag’s request, and the autograph was later tattooed over.

In the late 1980s, around the time of Power Metal, Abbott often covered songs by guitarist Joe Satriani, such as ‘Crushing Day.’ He also incorporated elements of Satriani songs like ‘Echo’ into his live solos as well. Abbott stated in various interviews, that his riffs were largely influenced by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Iommi influenced Dimebag’s tunings, which often went down to C# or lower. Pantera covered several Black Sabbath songs including  ‘Planet Caravan’ and ‘Electric Funeral.’ Abbott cited thrash giants Anthrax, Metallica, and despite a sometimes vicious feud, Megadeth as primary influences. He was also a fan of Slayer and a good friend of Kerry King. Dimebag mentioned in an interview with ‘Guitar World’ that the clean chord passages in the intro to ‘Cemetery Gates’ were influenced by the clean chordal passages found in much of Ty Tabor’s (King’s X) playing. As with Billy Gibbons, Abbott frequently made use of pentatonic scales and pinch harmonics in both his leads and rhythms. Both guitarists employ blues scales, start / stop dynamics and pedal tones, as in Abbott’s southern style riff in ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ and the main riff to ZZ Top’s ‘Tush.’

Randy Rhoads-style chord arpeggios can be heard in much of Abbott’s playing as well, noted examples being ‘Floods’ and ‘Shedding Skin.’ Abbott stated that ‘Eddie Van Halen was heavy rock and roll, but Randy was heavy metal.’ Eddie Van Halen, whom Abbott had befriended, placed his original black with yellow stripes guitar (commonly called ‘bumblebee’) into the Kiss Kasket Abbott was buried in. Abbott had mentioned that those colors were his favorite combination, and Van Halen had agreed to craft a copy for Abbott only several months before his untimely death. However, upon hearing of the tragedy, he offered to place the original guitar in the casket. Vinnie Paul Abbott is cited to have said ‘If he had known he would be buried with this guitar, he would have said ‘shoot me now!” Abbott was a fan of Van Halen and his band.

Pete Willis of Def Leppard was seen as another major influence for Darrell. In his ‘Guitar World’ magazine tribute issue, Abbott was quoted as saying, ‘Man, that first Leppard album really jams, and their original guitarist, Pete Willis, was a great player. I was inspired by him because I was a small young dude and he was a small young dude, too—and he was out there kickin’ ass. He made me want to get out there and play. Def Leppard used the two-guitar thing much more back then than they do now.’ According to an interview with Dino Cazares of Fear Factory, Abbott told him that during the recording of ‘Reinventing the Steel’ he compared his guitar tone with Dino’s. Incidentally, during the making of Fear Factory’s ‘Demanufacture,’ Cazares compared his guitar tone to that of ‘Vulgar Display of Power.’

Abbott played guest guitar solos on several Anthrax songs during their John Bush era. In an interview, Anthrax bassist Frank Bello said ‘Darrell was basically the sixth member of Anthrax.’ Abbott also performed a solo on the titular track of King Diamond’s ‘Voodoo’ album. In 2006, a rare track of one of his collaborations was discovered. Abbott had sat in on a recording session with local Dallas musician ‘Throbbin Donnie’ Rodd and recorded ‘Country Western Transvestite Whore.’ It features Dimebag on lead guitar and lead vocals. Abbott and his brother Vinnie Paul along with Rex (during the Pantera Era) and Bob Zilla (Damageplan Era) performed at their New Years party every year under the name ‘Gasoline,’ originally the name of a group featuring Dimebag and Vinnie plus Thurber T. Mingus of Pumpjack.

In 2004, Abbott was shot onstage while performing with Damageplan in Ohio. The gunman, Nathan Gale, shot Abbott three times in the head using a 9mm handgun. Abott and three others were killed and a further seven people were wounded. Gale fired a total of fifteen shots, stopping to reload once and remaining silent throughout the shooting. Jeff ‘Mayhem’ Thompson, the band’s head of security, was killed tackling Gale, as was Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk. Audience member Nathan Bray was killed while trying to perform CPR on Abbott and Thompson. It was rumored that one crowd member leapt in front of the gunman, saving the lives of several band members. Damageplan drum technician, John ‘Kat’ Brooks, was shot three times as he attempted to get the gun away from Gale, but was overpowered and taken hostage in a headlock position. Tour manager Chris Paluska was also injured.

Seven police officers came in the front entrance, led by Officer Rick Crum, and moved toward the stage. Officer James Niggemeyer came in through the back door, behind the stage. Gale only saw the officers in front of the stage; he didn’t see Officer Niggemeyer, who was armed with a 12 gauge Remington 870 shotgun. He approached Gale from the opposite side of the stage to avoid hitting the hostage and fired a single shot just as Gale looked towards Niggemeyer, striking Gale in the face with eight of the nine buckshot pellets, killing him instantly. Gale was found to have had 35 rounds of ammunition remaining. Early theories of motive suggested that Gale might have turned to violence in response to the breakup of Pantera, or the public dispute between Abbott and Pantera singer Phil Anselmo, but these were later ruled out by investigators. Another theory was that Gale believed Abbott had stolen a song that he had written.

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