Blaze took a few moments and explained the situation. “Darrell you remember when you tried selling me that red ML and I didn’t buy it? You remember me telling you that you don’t sell your trophies? You got lucky this time because that lightning guitar is your red ML, your trophy guitar, so just keep it man. It was always yours and it’s yours again.”
Blaze vividly remembers the conversation, still to this day. “If you knew Darrell at all, when I told him this he just went ballistic – doing his yelling, screaming, jumping and running antics.” With a reaction like that, Blaze knew the guitar was back home.
Darrell was always a fan first and that was no more evident than his love for Blaze’s work. He was just as consumed with excitement when he received that lightning bolt Dean as the thousands of fans who shared moments, laughs, photos and even a few Black Tooth Grins – Crown Royal or Seagrams 7 with a splash of coke – with Dimebag.
As history can corroborate, Pantera went on to become a metal juggernaut in the nineties and Blaze has since developed numerous guitars and even his own guitar company. The guitar modified and adapted by Blaze became the prototype in 2004 for Dimebag’s signature series, which was released by Dean – now based in Tampa Bay – in 2005 at Winter NAMM. Ironically, the guitar groomed by Blaze and later adopted as Dimebag’s preferred axe, was used to depict Abbott’s likeness at his funeral and memorial service. The guitar stood on stage, illuminated to the heavens by a spotlight, while Darrell’s friends and colleagues spoke about the guitar legend.
Due to Dean’s financial troubles in the mid-nineties, Darrell joined the Washburn team where they developed a few signature models. Blaze recalls Darrell being happy with the move, but not quite feeling right.
“Let’s just say this, I’m glad that prior to his death he hooked back up with Dean guitars and they coincidentally developed the Dean from Hell based on the lightning bolt specifications,” said Blaze. “I know Darrell always wanted to play Deans, even way back when he first started. It was just good to see him back where he belonged.”
Even Dean’s CEO Elliott Rubinson recognizes the importance of Darrell’s endorsement of the once struggling guitar company.
The DFH on display, after years of lovin' abuse
“Because Darrell played Deans throughout his career, I believe he played a large part in keeping the name in people’s minds, even when the company battled financial woes,” said Rubinson. “Only if that guitar could talk, the burnt headstock from Darrell’s fireworks, the KISS sticker and the paint scheme are all Darrell. People see the guitar they instantly think of Dimebag.”
For any guitar owner or builder, they have a special spot for their beloved projects. However guitars are just wooden instruments and lifelong friendships can be harder to build.
“It was my number one guitar, but that just shows the love I had for Darrell,” said Blaze.
With the gift that keeps on giving, the guitar exemplified not only a lifelong bond, but how humble Darrell truly was. Fame and money never changed that.
“After Pantera hit it big with the album, Cowboys from Hell
, I couldn’t be more proud of my friend who was seen everywhere and anywhere using that infamous lightning blue guitar,” said Blaze. “It was just cool; no matter how big Darrell and Pantera got, he always thanked me in interviews and stuff even years after I gave him that Dean. That’s what really sticks with me ‘til this day, his modesty.”
As Blaze has dealt with the tragic loss of one of his closest and oldest friends, he realizes that whenever he sees Darrell in photos or videos with that guitar, that Darrell is carrying a piece of Buddy with him.
The overwhelming irony of this story is found in its core. Although Blaze admitted that he traded, painted and extensively modified the guitar for his own playing style, it was still the perfect axe for Darrell. No matter what Blaze told himself or did to the guitar, it was and always will be Darrell’s signature guitar. The paint job was created out of Blaze’s preference, but even the lightning storm guitar better described Darrell’s personality – electric and loud.
In the end, Blaze was able to improve an already solid guitar for Darrell, and really, what else are friends for?
Watch our video slideshow of more historical Dimebag and Pantera photos: