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Five years ago today (on the same day John Lennon was killed 29 years ago), Abbott was gunned down on stage at the Alrossa Villa in Columbus, OH, doing what he loved to do most: playing guitar.
Here at Premier Guitar, we know we’re not the only ones who miss Abbott’s how-did-he-do-that solos, monstrous string bends and Floyd Rose dive bombs. But more importantly, through industry folk and other artists we learned of a man that was at all times, the biggest fan with a larger-than-life presence with a heart the size of Texas and an absolute love and passion to play guitar better each time he strapped up.
So we talked with a few industry people, close friends and artists who either knew Darrell or just simply looked up to his guitar prowess and we want to share those sentiments with you. Also, we gathered some old photography from Darrell’s close friend, Buddy Blaze to showcase in our exclusive photo gallery. As always, please feel free add your two cents about Darrell, his guitar playing abilities and the hilarity of these “fab-u-lous ‘80s” photos in the comments section.
In remembrance of Darrell, everyone should crank it to 11, play some Pantera or Damageplan and have a “Black Tooth Grin” [shot of Crown Royal whisky and a splash of coke] for Darrell Lance “Dimebag” Abbott.
Darrell’s childhood and long-time friend and modder/builder of Darrell’s famed lightning blue Dean From Hell ML. Also the luthier behind Blaze Guitars.
"This is really tough for me considering all of the loss I've dealt with this year and I'm still very hurt over the loss of Darrell ... Most people don't realize that Darrell was buried right after my birthday. On Friday, December 11th, I face my 50th birthday after losing both my son and my father this year. It should have been a great day shared with my son and maybe even my Dad ... and maybe even Darrell ... My Dad and my son Matt knew and loved Vinnie and Darrell both... Matt was the one who first told me the news about Darrell. I called my Dad and the rest of my family once I had confirmed that it was true ...
"In the early eighties, I would throw keg beer parties on my birthdays... My band would set up our gear in my house and we'd invite the neighbors (in hopes that they wouldn't call the cops!). Of course, if Pantera was in town, they'd show up, bring some more beer and treat us all to a great show in my living room! They were always the highlight of the party and usually after too many beers a food fight would break out ... I remember Vinnie throwing a deli tray at Darrell (one olive at a time...) when he (Darrell) got behind the drums.
"I spent every birthday I could with Pantera when I lived in Arlington ... At the Aragon Danceland in Fort Worth, my house, Savvy's (also in Fort Worth) whenever, wherever I wanted to be around the greatest guitarist I ever knew! But even more than that, Darrell was my friend. I'd love him if he couldn't play a note on guitar. I loved being around Darrell!
"One of the best days I ever had with my son came several years later when Pantera was playing the Palladium in Hollywood and I took Matt and his best friend Aaron to see them! I hung out with Aaron (Wires) at the sound console loving the show and drinking Silver Bullets, while Matt and his buddy Aaron moshed during Pantera's entire set! Afterwards we all hung out backstage until the bus had to go ... It was great seeing Matt have such a great time! One of the best times I ever had with Matt and Darrell! Pantera was so amazing! Vinnie was ferocious on drums and Darrell was mesmerizing as ever! I was so proud to see how far they had come!
"I don't remember one single time hanging with Darrell that I wasn't smiling ... never had any bad memories ... and he had a smile that would light up the whole room! I remember a lot of beer and later a lot of "Black Tooths."
"I can't imagine my life without the inspiration, laughter and friendship of "Dimebag" Darrell Lance Abbott.
Darrell, I miss you and love you. Do me a favor on Friday and hook up with Matt and my Dad and have a beer and a Black Tooth on me ... I'll have one for each of you and raise at least one in each of your honors ... Remember Dimebag, as long as we live, he lives!"
Childhood friend and original lead singer of Pantera from 81-86
“I remember one time particularly when Darrell went into his room and woodshed for about six months. He came out of that room and played like he would the rest of his life. I don’t know what happened in there, but he could really play after locking himself in that room. He literally came out of that room full-swinging. He could play "Eruption" when nobody could play it. We would play clubs, still living at home with our parents, throughout the state every weekend. We’d play originals and Darrell would just crush people [at guitar competitions in the Dallas-area in the early '80s]. He was just a big kid … It was held at the Ritz in Dallas, TX. I remember there were a lot of good guitar players, but Darrell was so much more than anyone, there was no doubt about it. They had to ban him pretty quick. There was no way that anyone could beat Darrell.
[Darrell and Deans] “Once he got that Dean from his father it looked so cool, but Deans just played so much better than any other guitar we could get our hands on. We thought they were the coolest looking things on the planet. Once he got that ML, I had to get something different. It was the way they played, the way sounded, the way they looked and because no else had them. It became a signature for Darrell before even leaving the Dallas area. To me, Darrell was so connected with the MLs that it just didn’t look right with anything but a Dean.
[How Darrell got his early Pantera tone, which would be the basis of his legendary tone in the '90s] “Darrell had a Yamaha amp and a blue MXR six-band graphic EQ, he would set that graphic and boost some of the frequencies and plug it into that Yahama. He would then blend that tone with those Randalls. We had a deal with Randall where we got stacks and stacks. Some of the cabinets were empty in the back and sometimes he’d set that Yahama right there and mic it up. It was the Dean, into a blue MXR six-band graphic EQ and boost some of the frequencies. We also used the old blue, rackmount MXR pitch-transposers, which are like harmonizers. Darrell would just adjust the pitch in really small increments and blend that into his tone. I think Randy Rhoads and Van Halen were doing that, so I think that’s what triggered Darrell’s live setup at that point.
"In the studio we would double-track stuff and use the vari-speed on the two inch to vary the speed between tracks, so when you would play back the tracks they’d be just that fatter. Darrell would do a guitar solo, it would be so long and the people would just go nuts. He would structure solos, but he would give himself enough leeway to improvise in between the beginning and end. He constantly evolved his solos and making them better and tighter. The solos would evolve, but they would stay similar for years into the future.
[Listening to the original incarnation of Pantera featuring Terry Glaze on vocals compared to the '90s version of Pantera with Phil Anselmo] "The singing and overall demeanor of the band changed, but the tone and sound of Darrell’s guitar is still the same. Someone who is a fan of Pantera from the mid-nineties will be able to listen to the earlier stuff and be like ‘hey that’s Darrell playing guitar.’”
Author of Darrell’s biography, Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott
“When Darrell was killed, I didn't mourn him, really, because I didn't know him. I didn't feel the impact personally until about two years later, when I finished the first draft of Black Tooth Grin. By then—after thinking about him, and reading his words, and listening to his voice and his guitar every day for a year—I felt like I knew him, and knew what had been taken away from the world. That's when it hit me. That's when I felt it. But I wasn't mourning the musician, though he was clearly influential. I was mourning the man. Because strip away whatever else, he was the rare person who cared more about others than himself. And I knew truly what I had missed out on.”
Guitarist/singer of Dethklok and creator of Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse and Home Movies
"When you listen to a Dime solo it was always a memorable event within the song. He played with amazing creativity and I always thought he had a real musical sense of humor and brought a lot of excitement and fun to his leads where a lot of people simply didn't. He wasn't just a shredder. He was immensely creative. I also really love hearing the Van Halen in his grove work. He's a hero of mine."
Guitarist for Dope
“Dime. His name will forever be synonymous with 'virtuoso metal guitarist,' but I think it means so much more, and it wasn't until after his death that I really got a grip on what it was. We're talking about a guy that carried the torch for heavy rock and metal from the 1980s to the early 2000s, even through its darkest days in the mid '90s. Pantera was that good and popular, mostly due to Dime's guitar playing, where it seemed that even if Nirvana was the biggest band on the planet, you couldn't ignore the power of metal; sort of like Bruce Springsteen securing the safety of rock ‘n’ roll through the Disco era in the late '70s.
"Of course, the catalyst for all of this was Darrell's guitar playing abilities. When I think about it, he really could do it all. Anything from pinch harmonics to whammy bar tricks: fast picking to smooth hammer-on/pull-off stuff, it all seemed so easy for him … and it was. His imaginative approach to the guitar also spilled over into his songwriting. He was so creative with his riffs, using everything he could to keep it fresh, album after album. Need a bar to put your skills or talent up against? Darrell Abbott set this standard that seems unreachable. How about this? Try to measure up to his humbleness and his dedication to the fans. You couldn't possibly come close. Like I said before, 'virtuoso metal guitarist' and so much more...”
"Dimebag wrote such good riffs; the opening on 'Shedding Skin' is one of my favorite riffs of the nineties, if not all time."
Shelton “Hank” Williams III
Outlaw country singer/songwriter and guitarist. Also lead guitarist for his metal band Assjack.
"I’ll never forget seeing Dimebag's Dean From Hell’s headstock get broke off on stage at the 328 Performance Hall in Nashville. He finished the song while laughing because the guitar was holding its tuning with the locking nut.
"Getting to know Dimebag was a huge honor … we always had good times and plenty of laughs. The last time I saw him in person he was leading our bus back to the interstate after partying at his house all night ... The sheriffs told us we had one hour to get out of there county or we were going to jail. En route to showing us the way back to the interstate, not only did he take out all his neighbors shrubs and small trees, but when we got near the interstate Dimebag missed the turn and ran his Cadillac straight off into the woods. He jumped out and threw up the horns and yelled, 'The interstate is that way!'
That was the last time I saw him in person … I’ll never forget Dimebag whether as a guitar shredder or one of the best guys to hang with."