Better known by the nicknames Dimebag Darrell and Diamond Darrell (the latter only used it at a young age), Darrell Lance Abbott was an American heavy metal guitarist, co-founder along with his drummer brother Vinnie Paul, of Pantera.
He was killed by one of his fans during a concert on December 8, 2004, that’s why we find ourselves telling his story and commemorating him today. Twenty-four years earlier, John Lennon had the same fate.
The first years
Darrell Lance Abbott was born on August 20, 1966 in Dallas, Texas. His father, Jerry Abbott, was the owner of a major recording studio, Pantego Sound Studios.
In this structure, the young Darrell and his brother Vincent Paul (aka Vinnie Paul), were able to attend the rehearsal sessions and recordings of many Blues guitarists.Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley soon became young Abbott’s idol.
Fascinated by the style of these musicians, Abbott soon learned to play and asked his father for a musical instrument as a gift, insisting with the support of his brother. The father bought the boys a drums that the brothers began to play together.
Darrell, however, seeing his brother much more skilled than him with the drums, decided to ask his father for a new instrument, namely a guitar, so that he could finally emulate his idol Frehley. This story is very reminiscent of that of the Van Halen brothers, but there the piano was involved instead of the drums.
Darrell began to perfect his self-taught musical style. Having become quite capable, he was soon joined by his father in regional competitions for guitarists. It was thanks to the money earned in competitions that the young Darrell was able to buy the necessary number of instruments to finance his first musical group, Pantera.
Dimebag Darrell’s first and foremost musical influence, as we said before, was Frehley of Kiss. Instead, as far as the first song the musician learned is concerned, however, it was Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”.
In the specific case of Black Sabbath, Darrell particularly admired Tony Iommi. Darrell was so inspired that in many Pantera songs a musical style similar to Iommi’s is easily heard. In fact, he has often revisited, in addition to his unique style, similar cadences, riffs, use of the pedal and distortions.
In the specific case of the Van Halens, his esteem for Eddie Van Halen was also noteworthy. Dimebag Darrell has stated several times that in his teens he tried to emulate it by learning various techniques known to guitarists (such as tapping).
Other guitarists who have influenced the sound of Darrell and Pantera are Ted Nugent, Randy Rhoads, Rusty Burns, Jimi Hendrix and Pat Travers.
However, his influences are not limited to the metal genre, but also range to blues and country, with names like BB King, Robben Ford, Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers, artists he had all seen perform in his youth .
The birth of Pantera
The group was born with Darrell and his brother Vinnie in 1981, with the appointment of the young bassist Rex Brown and the singer Terry Glaze. During the first few years he was active in this band, Darrell Abbott appeared on shows under the stage name of Diamond Darrell.
The band, after a period of apprenticeship, officially made its debut in 1983 with the album Metal Magic. In this record Pantera offer the audience a glam metal sound with evident influences of Kiss, Van Halen and Judas Priest, and a simple but fast and urgent rhythm base.
After a series of small concerts, the group’s production continued, thanks to the Magic Records Metal label owned by their father Jerry Abbott, from which modest works such as Jungle Projects (1984) and I’m the Night (1985) came out.
The not yet eighteen year old Darrell Diamond managed to acquire fame in the States. With the entry of the histrionic singer Phil Anselmo in place of Glaze, in 1988 the album Power Metal was released. The band’s sound was significantly accelerated and strengthened, thanks to new musical influences from Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer.
And the birth of Dimebag Darrell
With their fifth album, the well-known Cowboys from Hell (1990), Panterathey set aside the glam genre for a very personal and aggressive thrash, dominated by the riffs of Darrell, who in the meantime had taken on a new stage name, Dimebag Darrell, born from a childhood memory of the musician.
Pantera’s next album, Vulgar Display of Power, was released in 1992 and solidified the group’s success. In 1994 Far Beyond Driven was released; the record lived up to fan expectations and sold many copies around the world, marking the group’s rise to the Olympus of metalheads.
Since 1995 the group’s unity has been plagued by various disagreements among the members, in particular due to the excessive drug use of singer Phil Anselmo. Pantera, putting controversy aside, returned to the 1996 recording studio, producing The Great Southern Trendkill.
Shortly after the release of the album, Anselmo was hospitalized in a coma due to a heroin overdose. After miraculously recovering, he was forced by Dimebag and Vinnie Paul to swear never to use drugs again, under threat of expulsion from the group.
In 1997 Anselmo, now completely recovered, decided to get away from his companions to devote himself to various projects outside the Pantera. Abbott and Rex Brown therefore decided to also found a project outside the group, which was called Rebel Meets Rebel and was based on a sound that ranks between country and ‘heavy metal.
The end of Pantera and Dimebag Darrell’s new band
In 2000 the band put together a new album called Reinventing Steel but did not achieve the success of the previous records, thus fueling new conflicts within the group, this time related to sound.
As a result of these disagreements, Phil Anselmo once again returned to his plans, while Abbott decided to take his time in hopes of a change in the singer’s mind. This never happened, so the Abbott brothers announced the dissolution of the Pantera in 2003.
Following the dissolution, a real war of words broke out between Anselmo and Abbott; the struggle developed in trade magazines to the sound of violent statements. Vinnie increased the dose and in recent years Dimebag Darrell blamed Phil Anselmo for a sound he did not like and which had pushed Pantera to a different style that did not fully represent them and which therefore caused the split.
Anselmo denied all these words, and attracted bassist Rex Brown into the conflict, who decided to take Anselmo’s side, thus leaving the situation permanently suspended.
After nearly a year of inactivity, during which Dimebag Darrell had appeared on some of the Anthrax records, the Abbott brothers founded a new group, Damageplan, along with singer Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla. Their first album was released in 2004 under the title New Power and was a huge success, peaking at number 37 on the US charts.
The assassination of Dimebag Darrell
On December 8, 2004, during a performance in Ohio on the promotional tour of the new album, Dimebad Darrell is killed on stage by a former military man, Nathan Gale.
The killer kills three other people: Nathan Bray, who attended the concert, Erin Halk, a club employee, and Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, who are responsible for the safety of Damageplan. Technician John “Kat” Brooks and tour director Chris Paluska were also injured in the shooting.
The story ended with the murder of the murderer, shot by a police officer on the spot.
The reconstruction of the tragedy, carried out by the local police, described the scene: the shooting began at the very beginning of the concert. Nathan Gale, according to a witness, who apparently managed to get on stage, shot the musicians.
A total of fifteen shots were reportedly fired, killing several people including Dimebag Darrell. When security and the audience took to the stage to stop him, Gale shot them, killing guards Thompson and Halk and wounding Paluska.
Gale then took coach Brooks hostage. Meanwhile, nurse Mindy Reece tried to revive Dimebag Darrell by giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. According to some witnesses, Bray was shot while trying to help the musician. At the first sign of Brooks’ movement, a Columbus Center policeman, James D. Niggemeyer, shot the killer hitting him in the head.
What happened after
In May 2005, the policeman Niggemeyer had to defend himself from the murder charge but the acquittal comes soon.
Many have wondered the reason for Gale’s insane gesture. The spark of the massacre is said to be due to the recent Pantera breakup or the public feud between the brothers Abbott and Phil Anselmo. Another well-established hypothesis explains that Gale, due to the schizophrenia that plagued him, imagined that Darrell had copied some of his songs, and therefore decided to punish him with death.
What now seems certain is that Gale’s goal was precisely the 2 Abbott brothers. Gale rushed to Dimebag and fired 4 shots at close range screaming at him something that a participant recollected: “you have destroyed Pantera”.
The guitarist’s funeral took place in a special atmosphere and with the participation of many famous artists. Eddie Van Halen played a solo at the ceremony and put a guitar in the guitarist’s coffin.
At the end of the town’s celebrations, Darrell Lance Abbott was interred at Arlington’s Moore Memorial Gardens in a KISS coffin. On his tombstone, also richly decorated, there was an inscription:
«He came to rock…
and rocked like no other
with the heart twice the
size of Texas, our beloved
brother, companion, mentor,
idol and friend…
We love you Dime…
until we meet again»
In the days following Dimebag Darrell’s death, many artists decided to extend a tribute to the guitarist. The list is very long. The main ones were Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Motörhead, Slayer, Fuck, Zakk Wylde, Ted Nugent, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach, Van Halen, Mike Portnoy, Sepultura, Metallica, Dave Mustaine, Skid Row, Marty Friedman, Brian May, Machine Head, Mötley Crüe and Rob Zombie.
Aesthetics of Hate
On December 14, just 6 days after the murder, an article on a site that claimed to be conservative, entitled ‘Aesthetics of Hate: R.I.P. Dimebag Abbott, and Good Riddance ‘, says the tribute to Mr Darrell is a scandal. He is described as ignorant, sub-human like his fans and that heavy metal like rap is not music.
And this is the sweetened version of what was written by an untalented dude whose name emerges not for masterpieces that will go down in history, but for giving a dirty and liberal to a Texas musician after his tragic death.
The reactions to this writing were not long in coming. First, Rob Flyn wrote with his Machine Heads: ‘Aesthetics of Hate’. Fans naturally squared up to defend their positions. This climate, together with the epic circumstances that accompanied the last moments of Dimebag Darrell’s life, made him enter the legend.
Tributes to Dimebag Darrell
Both of the guitar companies that supported Dimebag in life, Washburn and Dean, not only re-released his signature model, but also released special lines with variations of the guitars he had used.Both MXR pedals and Jim Dunlop have been selling tribute effects models he had used in life, despite neither company having been officially approved by him while he was alive.
On May 17, 2007 Dimebag Darrell becomes part of the Rockwalk Hollywood, a gallery dedicated to the memory of those artists who have contributed to tracing the growth and evolution in a significant and lasting way of rock ‘n’ roll. For the event, a bronze bust of the guitarist is made, which is located along the tunnel next to monuments of artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Johnny Cash, Van Halen, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder and John Lee Hooker.
Also in 2007 the second stage of the famous Download Festival was “The Dimebag Darrell Stage”. On stage Dimebag Darrell’s brother, Vinnie Paul, with his new band, Hellyeah.
In 2021 the news is that the Alrosa Villa, the place where Dimebag Darrell lost his life along with 4 other people will be demolished to start the construction of apartments.
Dimebag Darrell left an indelible mark in the history of metal with Pantera then Damageplan. Dimebag’s compositions testify to an acute sense of the riff, with a recognizable sound among all.
In Spain, there is a dedicated festival called Dimefest where traditional metal bands play nothing but Pantera and Damageplan songs. And these testify all the different qualities of the guitarist: his rhythmic level, his raw energy and a spontaneous talent for melody.