Dimebag Darrel, his Dean Guitars and a Squeal
He was born to Jerry Abbott, a country musician and producer. He took up guitar when he was in his early teens, winning a series of local guitar competitions, where in one he was awarded his first Dean (later known as the ML styled guitar.) Coincidentally, his father had bought him a cherryburst finish Dean (ML) standard the morning before the competition, so he only had a few hours of playing time on it. These and another contest prize, his first Randall Amplifier, are the two staples of his style and sound.
Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. The band began in a glam metal style, but by the late ’80s showed a greater influence from thrash metal acts such as Exodus, Megadeth, Exhorder and Metallica, as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Pantera subsequently became 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. In 1992, Abbott dropped the nickname “Diamond Darrell” and assumed the nickname “Dimebag Darrell”. Pantera began to suffer from mounting tensions between band members in the mid-1990s, largely due to Phil Anselmo’s rampant drug abuse; in 2003, the group broke up. Anselmo left the band for other projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down.
Shortly before singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Abbott was invited to join Dave Mustaine’s thrash band Megadeth. Abbott was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hired his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine had already hired drummer Nick Menza, Abbott stayed with Pantera.
On December 8, 2004, while performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, Abbott was shot onstage by a mentally ill former US Marine named Nathan Gale. Abbott was shot three times in the head, killing him instantly. Damageplan’s drum technician, John “Kat” Brooks, and tour manager, Chris Paluska, were injured. Gale fired a total of fifteen shots, taking the time to reload once, and remaining silent throughout the shooting.
Eddie Van Halen, whom Abbott had recently befriended, placed his original black with yellow stripes guitar (commonly called “bumblebee”) into the Kiss Kasket. Abbott had mentioned to Ed that he liked that color combination the best of Ed’s guitars (this guitar appears on the back sleeve of Van Halen’s second album “Van Halen II”), and Eddie was going to paint one that way for him. Darrell also credited Vito Rulez of Chauncy for convincing him to try Bill Lawrence pickups. According to an interview with Dino Cazares then of Fear Factory Abbott told him that during the recording of Reinventing the Steel he A/B’d his guitar tone with Dino’s (incidentally during the making of Fear Factory’s Demanufacture Cazares A/B’d his guitar tone against that of Vulgar Display of Power). 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. This design spawned variations, such as a 24-fret version, different paint jobs including a flamed maple top with natural finish, EMG pickups, and also helped with the design of the V-shaped version, the Razorback V (lacking the neck-pointing front wing).
In his early career as a musician, Dimebag used Dean ML guitars and Bill Lawrence L500XL pickups, which he would install in a reversed position to have the “hot” blade facing the neck. His main guitars were an ML guitar customized by Buddy Blaze, painted with a unique lightning bolt design and was equipped with a ‘Floyd Rose tremolo bar called the “Dean From Hell”, and a Braziliaburst ML. He used Dean guitars from 1983 - 1995. When Dean guitars went out of business, he ended up going to numerous other guitar companies. Failing to get an endorsement from BC Rich guitars (which his fellow guitar playing friend Kerry King used), he then went to Jackson Guitars for a short period of time.
Though he never played any of the Jacksons live, he is rumored to have used them on recordings and known to use them during rehearsals. His only Jacksons were two Randy Rhoads models, one of which was white and another that had a lightning sky graphic. His relation ship with Jackson only lasted through 1995 however.
Dimebag used Washburn guitars from 1996 – 2004 endorsing various signature models such as the Dimebolt and the Stealth. His main guitars at this point were the Dime 3, the Stealth, and the Culprit (a unique model designed by Washburn which varied greatly from the ML). Seymour Duncan manufactures a signature pickup co-designed by Dime, called the Dimebucker. Dimebag endorsed Seymour Duncan, but continued to use Bill Lawrence pickups in most of his personal guitars. Several months before his death, Darrell ended his long relationship with Washburn guitars, and again became a Dean endorsee, coinciding with Dean Guitar founder Dean Zelinksy’s return. Dean guitars built him a brand new signature guitar, called the Dime O’ Flame, which he began using live. As a tribute to him, in 2005 Dean Guitars released the new Dimebag Tribute line of ML guitars. These guitars come in various models, ranging from lower end ones that have a stop tail piece, a bolt-on neck, Basswood Body, and lower quality pickups, to higher end models with Dimebuckers, a Floyd Rose bridge, and set neck construction. In his last few weeks with Dean Guitars, Dimebag helped design a guitar he called the Razorback. After his death, Dean continued with the Razorback project and dedicated them to the memory of him. During the height of Dimebag’s fame, he also worked together with MXR and Dunlop to produce the MXR Dimebag Distortion and the Dimebag “Crybaby from Hell” Wah respectively.
Dimebag Darrell 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 albums under his own name, including Country Western Transvestite Whore and Supercop Soundtrack (1996) and he recorded a country music album entitled Rebel Meets Rebel (2004).
Equipment circa 2000
Randall Warhead 300Watt Head
Randall RS412W Warhead Cabinet / 4×12
Digitech WH-1 Whammy Original x 2
Dunlop 535Q Wah Pedal
Whirlwind A/B Selector
Furman PQ-3B Parametric Equalizer
Korg DTR-1 Rack Tuner
Rocktron Guitar Silencer