But, the inexperienced Darrell disregarded Blaze’s advice and continued his search for a potential buyer. Darrell was determined to buy a yellow Firebird and was willing to do whatever it took to get behind the wheel, which ultimately meant selling the trophy guitar.

Abbott sold the guitar to Blaze’s bandmate. Later that same day Blaze encountered the newly exchanged guitar.

“I just remember being at band practice and my lead singer came in with a guitar case shaped like a Dean ML,” said Blaze. “I knew once he opened the case and I saw Darrell’s Dean ML that he wasn’t leaving practice with that guitar.”

Blaze and his lead singer negotiated and finally settled on a fair deal. Blaze had just bought a brand new Kramer Pacer – “The best guitar I had in my own hands” – and traded it to the lead singer for Abbott’s Dean ML. Although it didn’t belong to the rightful owner, it was under the watchful eye of a close friend.

As for Darrell – now in possession of the Firebird – his reputation spread around town for not only being a hot guitar player but for his fast and foolish driving habits. The car spent more time parked than in the fast lane because Darrell quickly racked up numerous tickets and warrants.

“Darrell’s yellow Firebird was hilarious, a real Smokey and the Bandit thing,” said Glaze. “Back then, Darrell only weighed 115-120 lbs. He would just fly around town with his big, curly hair inside that Firebird.”

As for the low-key Dean and Blaze, a month passed before Buddy Blaze realized something was out of place. His newly acquired Dean ML guitar was maroon and all of his other guitars were blue, so Blaze thought a new paint job would welcome it into his guitar family. But instead of a standard blue paint job, he decided on a lightning storm scene. Blaze tapped into his fascination with storms and browsed through several National Geographic magazines to find a good reference. Despite the planning, Blaze didn’t warm up to the new paint scheme until months later.

The "Dean From Hell" before and after its new paint job
As time passed, Blaze continued to tweak and modify the guitar. He reshaped the neck to make the V more pronounced, ground the saddles down until they perfectly met the fretboard, added a Floyd Rose bridge and replaced the standard pickups, putting a custom Duncan in the bridge and moving the standard Dean DiMarzio bridge pickup to the neck position. With a few more minor additions (chrome and black screws), the guitar finally felt like Blaze’s – or did it?

Darrell came over to Blaze’s house and saw this mysterious new guitar in Blaze’s collection. “I wasn’t sure if Darrell knew this was the same Dean ML he won years ago as a teenager,” said Blaze. “We just never really talked about it. I don’t even know if he knew I owned his guitar.”

Blaze continued to jam with his newest axe, but things just didn’t feel right. It was the perfect color, the preferred pickups and the desired setup, but the guitar still felt out of place.

“I remember the first time Darrell put on the guitar and started playing it. I realized right there and then that all the modifications I did for myself on the guitar were for nothing because it wasn’t even my guitar,” said Blaze. “But still to this day, that is my favorite guitar. If I could pick just one guitar to have forever, it’d be that one.”

As months tend to pass like a blur, Pantera and Blaze found themselves at a crossroad. Pantera had just recruited Philip Anselmo, a new lead singer, and were heading into the studio to record their fourth album Power Metal. Blaze also had opportunity knocking on his door. Kramer guitars had contacted Blaze and offered him a lucrative deal to move to New Jersey and help produce custom guitars.

“I saw the writing on the wall. It was my time to leave and Pantera was about to hit it big,” said Blaze. “I did what I felt was right in my heart and told Darrell to borrow my guitar until I could make him a copy.”

Early-nineties Pantera finding a new level of power
After weeks separated from his favorite axe, Blaze received an urgent phone call.

“Dude, I really love this guitar, but I don’t want to scratch or ding it up. It’s not even my guitar,” said Darrell.

Blaze quickly responded. “Don’t worry about it Darrell. Some day when you’re a superstar I’ll brag to my friends and family that Darrell Abbott scratched it.” With that, the frantic phone call was subdued and the conversation shifted.

Only a few weeks had passed and Darrell frantically called yet again, “Dude, what is it going to take for me to own this guitar, Buddy? I can’t let this guitar go!”