Dimebag Darrell in 2004
|Born||Darrell Lance Abbott
August 20, 1966
Ennis, Texas, U.S.
|Died||December 8, 2004
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
|Cause of death||Murder|
|Other names||Diamond Darrell, Dimebag Darrell|
|Labels||Atco, EastWest, Big Vin, Elektra|
|Associated acts||Pantera, Damageplan, Gasoline, Pumpjack, Anthrax, Rebel Meets Rebel, King Diamond|
|Signature "Dimebag" models issued by Dean and Washburn Guitars|
Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.
Abbott was shot and killed by a gunman while on stage during a performance with Damageplan on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He ranked No. 92 in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists and No. 1 in the UK magazine, Metal Hammer.
Abbott was born to Carolyn and Jerry Abbott, a country musician and producer. Before he wanted a guitar, Abbott asked his parents for a BMX bike. He took up the guitar when he was twelve, with his first being a Hondo Les Paul along with a small amplifier. Upon winning a series of local guitar competitions, most notably held at the Agora Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, Abbott was awarded a Dean ML. He then sold this guitar to luthier Buddy Blaze, who installed a Floyd Rose bridge and emblazoned it with Abbott's signature lightning bolt paint job; Blaze returned it some years later. Coincidentally, his father had also bought him a Dean ML the morning before the aforementioned competition, but one with a cherry sunburst finish instead. Abbott met his long-time girlfriend Rita Haney at a young age around the third grade.
Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. Originally he called himself Diamond Darrell Lance. 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. Shortly after singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Darrell was invited by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth. Darrell was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hire his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine already had a drummer, Nick Menza, Darrell stayed with Pantera.
Pantera would go on to become 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 piece of 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 on February 25, 1992, which saw the replacement of the power metal falsetto vocals with a hardcore-influenced shouted delivery and heavier guitar sound. On Pantera's 1994 album Far Beyond Driven, Abbott, who'd been listed on all prior albums under the moniker "Diamond Darrell", was listed as "Dimebag Darrell". On the night before Pantera's live appearance at the Monsters of Rock in England's Donington Park, the Abbott brothers got involved in altercations at a local club with journalists from magazines Kerrang! and Raw.
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 hiatus, during which time Anselmo worked on side projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down. This caused more friction within the band, as the Abbott brothers kept waiting for Anselmo to become available to work with them again. The frustration with Anselmo led to their decision to disband Pantera in 2003.
After a year, brothers Vinnie and Dimebag formed Damageplan, a heavy metal band which continued 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 on February 10, 2004, which debuted at No. 38 on the Billboard 200, selling 44,676 copies in its first week.
When writing music for the new group, Dimebag said that "we wanted to stretch out and expand our capabilities to their fullest."
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. This song was released on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack on July 28, 1992. In 1996, Abbott contributed the Ace Frehley song "Fractured Mirror" to the Ace tribute album Spacewalk: A Salute To Ace Frehley. Then in 1997 a new Ace Frehley tribute album called Return Of The Comet: A Tribute to Ace Frehley was released. The two Abbott brothers covered Ace's song "Snowblind" on track 7. On and off between 1996 and the formation of Damageplan, the Abbott brothers and Pantera bassist Rex Brown teamed up with country singer David Allan Coe for a project called Rebel Meets Rebel. The album was released May 2, 2006 on Vinnie's Big Vin Records label.
Abbott played guest guitar solos on several Anthrax songs during their John Bush era: "King Size" and "Riding Shotgun" from Stomp 442, "Inside Out" and "Born Again Idiot" from Volume 8: The Threat Is Real, "Strap It On" and "Cadillac Rock Box" (with a voice intro from Dimebag as well) from We've Come for You All. In an interview, Anthrax bassist Frank Bello said "Darrell was basically the sixth member of Anthrax". Abbott also performed a solo on the title track of King Diamond's Voodoo album. A sample from a guitar solo by Abbott was used in the Nickelback song "Side of a Bullet", and he also played guitar on Nickelback's cover of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" along with Kid Rock.
In 1999, Pantera recorded a theme tune for their favourite ice hockey team, the Dallas Stars, called 'Puck-Off'. The song was eventually released in 2003 on the album 'Dallas Stars: Greatest Hits'. In 2000, Abbott played the guitar solo on Believer for the new Randy Rhoads tribute album. Vocals were by Sebastian Bach, rhythm guitars by Kane Roberts, drums by Michael Cartellone, and bass by Mike Bringardello. This was the only track that Abbott contributed to on this album.
Shortly before Abbott's death, he went into the studio with a band named Premenishen to do a guest solo on a track titled "Eyes of the South." He was also confirmed as one of the original guitar player choices for Liquid Tension Experiment by Mike Portnoy. Abbott's musical roots were in country western music; he supported the local music scene in Dallas and sometimes recorded with local musicians. He played in a country band called Rebel Meets Rebel with country performer David Allan Coe.
In December 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. Stroker of Pumpjack also played with Gasoline on several occasions.
Dimebag, Vinnie and Rex also recorded a cover of the ZZ Top song "Heard It on the X" under the band name "Tres Diablos" for ECW wrestling's Extreme Music soundtrack. In 2012, a previously unreleased track, "Twisted", featuring Dimebag on lead vocals and guitar, was used in a promotional video for Elephant Brand Skateboards's "Dimebag Tribute Skateboard. "Twisted" was also released as an MP3 download.
On December 8, 2004, Abbott was murdered onstage while performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. Moments into the band's set, 25-year-old former Marine Nathan Gale shot Abbott three times in the head with a 9 mm Beretta 92FS pistol, killing him instantly. Some in attendance initially believed the shooting was part of the act, but as Gale continued shooting, the audience quickly came to the realization that the event was not staged. Having fired a total of 15 shots, Gale killed a total of four people while wounding seven others.
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's 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 entered through the front entrance 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 did not see 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 him, striking Gale in the face with eight of the nine buckshot pellets and killing him instantly. Gale was found to have had 35 rounds of ammunition remaining.
Two fans administered CPR on Abbott until paramedics arrived, but were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Early speculation about motive suggested that Gale, who was a Pantera fan, might have turned to violence in response to the breakup of the band, or the public dispute between Abbott and Pantera singer Phil Anselmo, but these were later ruled out by investigators. In VH1's documentary Behind the Music, Damageplan's sound engineer Aaron Barnes states that the whole time, after shooting Dimebag, Gale was looking for Vinnie, possibly planning to murder him too. Another conjecture was that Gale believed Abbott had stolen a song that he had written. About six months prior to the shooting, Gale got into an altercation at a Damageplan concert in Cincinnati where he damaged $5,000 worth of equipment while being removed from the stage by security.
Influences and guitar skills
Abbott once said in a Guitar World interview that "if there were no Ace Frehley, there would have been no Dimebag Darrell". Abbott bore 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.
Abbott stated in various interviews that his riffs were largely influenced by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Iommi also influenced Dimebag's guitar tone and tunings, which often went down to D♭ or lower. Pantera covered Black Sabbath songs "Planet Caravan", "Hole in the Sky" and "Electric Funeral". Eddie Van Halen was another big influence on his style. He learned "Eruption" note-for-note and often played it live in his early days.
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."
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. 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", "Shedding Skin", "The Sleep" and "This Love". Three of Abbott's solos were ranked in Guitar World magazine's Top 100 of all-time: "Walk" (No. 57), "Cemetery Gates" (No. 35), and "Floods" (No. 15). 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. According to Darrell's girlfriend Rita, Van Halen stated: "Dime was an original and only an original deserves the original!"
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 made popular, and was one of the original users, of the "Whammy Harmonic" technique, which consisted of lowering the pitch of the strings with his Whammy Bar, using his left hand to create a harmonic, and then lifting the Whammy Bar again, beyond the strings original pitch to create a high pitched, screaming noise.
Abbott's first guitar was a Les Paul copy by Hondo, and he began playing Dean Guitars in the early 1980s. His father bought him a cherry sunburst 1979 Dean ML in 1981 and later that day he won a burgundy ML in a guitar competition. He later sold this guitar to buy a car. The guitar was subsequently heavily customized; the neck was re-shaped, a lightning bolt paint job was applied and a Floyd Rose tremolo system was installed. This guitar was later returned to Abbott as a present, and became known as the "Dean From Hell," which he used from 1988 until 1994. He also played a sunburst ML customized to his own specs on Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven. When Dean temporarily closed down he collaborated with Washburn to recreate the ML body style. When the Washburn contract ended he made arrangements to be the sole endorsee of the re-opened Dean. Abbott's death came shortly before the Dean contract was set to begin.
The Dean From Hell guitar had Bill Lawrence pickups. The Seymour Duncan guitar pickup company made a signature pickup called the Dimebucker, modeled after the Bill Lawrence original L-500XL pickups. After Dean guitars' demise in 1994 he signed with Washburn, going back to Dean again in 2004. He was buried with a Charvel guitar which was owned by Eddie Van Halen.
Abbott co-designed a guitar with Dean just months before his death. Called the Razorback, it was a modified version of the ML. It is more pointed and has extra barbs on the wings. The design spawned variations, such as a 24-fret version, different paint jobs including a flamed maple top with natural finish and EMG pickups. He also helped design of the V-shaped version, the Razorback V (lacking the neck-pointing front wing).
Abbott was praised for his instrumental tone and was included in "The 50 Greatest Tones of All Time" by Guitar Player magazine. Remembered for his amiable nature and rapport with fans, Abbott was described by AllMusic as "one of the most influential stylists in modern metal."
The book Riffer Madness was compiled from Abbott's frequent appearances in guitar magazines and in readers' polls, and from the long-running Guitar World magazine column that he wrote. Ride For Dime Inc., a nationally registered 501(c)(3) charity, was formed in 2005. It hosts annual motorcycle runs and concerts, with all proceeds going to Little Kids Rock, and towards funding the Ride For Dime Scholarship Fund. Ride For Dime is the only charity recognized and supported by the Abbott Estate. In 2016, Watchmojo.com ranked him No.1 on their "Top 10 Famous People Who Tragically Died While Performing" list.
Discography and filmography
Abbott performed on Anthrax albums, including Stomp 442 (1995); Volume 8: The Threat Is Real (1998); the Inside Out EP (1998) and We've Come for You All (2003). With Damageplan, Abbott played on the Devastation Sampler (2003) and on the album New Found Power (2004). With Pantera, Abbott recorded a number of albums, EPs, singles, and videos including Power Metal (1988), Cowboys from Hell (1990), Vulgar Display of Power (1992), and Hostile Moments (1994). He also recorded music under his own name, including the album Country Western Transvestite Whore and the song "Caged in a Rage" on the 1996 soundtrack for Supercop, and he recorded an album with David Allen Coe titled Rebel Meets Rebel (2006).
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