Dimebag Darrell: Texas Guitar Hero

It was sixteen years ago that we lost a music icon and local legend.

Darrell Lance Abbott, better known as Dimebag Darrell, grew up in Arlington, Texas. He’s best remembered as the guitarist for the metal band Pantera. Other notable projects include the bands Damageplan and Rebel Meets Rebel. His life was tragically cut short on December 8, 2004, at age 38.

“Dimebag Darrell with Pantera” 
by Rik Goldman is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Pantera

Pantera is one of my favorite bands. We have one thing in common — we’re both from Arlington. Having one of your favorite bands from your hometown is incredible! It doesn’t matter where they’re from, though. Pantera would still be one of my favorite bands. But, having our hometown in common helped forge a deeper connection to the music.

With Pantera, it always felt genuine and pure. Their music is raw, visceral, unapologetic, and unabashed beyond comparison. It’s guided me through hard times and helped me healthily express anger and frustration.

Pantera had that swagger that set them apart from the pack. Well, that, and the music. These were talented musicians and have influenced countless other bands that came after them.

Pantera sold over 10 million albums worldwide. Their 1994 album Far Beyond Driven debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 charts. That’s a feat for any band, but especially a metal band of this flavor. Pantera isn’t for everyone, which makes it all that impressive to top the mainstream charts.

I was lucky to see Pantera in concert. It was only once, but unforgettable. I remember the raw energy in the venue. Fair Park Coliseum took a beating from that concert!

Pantera’s music still gets heavy (pun intended) rotation through my speakers. I’ve been a fan for over 20 years.

Dimebag Darrell

I was at home when I heard the news. The radio was playing Pantera, which was always cool to hear. Another Pantera song followed. A double shot of Pantera on a Wednesday night? That was unusual and didn’t feel right. After the song ended, the local DJ on 97.1 The Eagle repeated the announcement from a few minutes earlier. Dimebag was dead.

I was in shock. I felt numb. I thought it had to be a sick joke. It wasn’t. After hearing what details were available, I had heard enough. I turned off the radio and reached for my Pantera CDs. I started my own tribute, listening to my favorite songs and trying to make sense of what happened.

Dimebag was murdered. Murdered while performing a concert in Columbus, Ohio by a deranged “fan.” He was killed on stage while playing guitar and entertaining his fans. No one should die like that, especially not Dimebag. I can’t imagine being at that concert and witnessing such a tragic and horrific scene. The shooting rampage took the lives of Dimebag and three other innocent people. Two others were injured. A police officer responding to the 911 call killed the gunman moments later.

I’ve read many tributes and stories about Dimebag. Most of those who met him describe him as being friendly, approachable, down-to-earth, and generous. A gregarious and larger-than-life rock star who didn’t let his celebrity status change who he was. Respected by his heroes and peers, revered by his fans, Dimebag was something special.

Today, Dimebag’s legacy lives on. Pantera’s music is still relevant and influencing new generations of metalheads. The Dallas / Fort Worth area definitely hasn’t forgotten about him.

It’s hard to choose my favorite Dimebag riff. There are so many iconic songs, and they’re filled with his handiwork. Dimebag was equal parts technique, talent, ability, and attitude. He wasn’t your average guitar player, far from it.

I’ve visited his grave a few times to pay my respects. He’s buried in Arlington, next to his brother, Vinnie Paul. Vinnie was the drummer for Pantera and one of my favorite drummers. It took my breath away when I first found their graves. I didn’t realize that icons were buried like the rest of us.

Well, maybe not exactly like the rest of us. Fittingly, Dimebag is buried in a KISS Kasket and with one of Eddie Van Halen’s personal guitars. KISS and Van Halen were huge influences on Dimebag. As for the grave-markers, they are beautiful tributes to these brothers.

Dimebag’s grave-marker says: “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.”

It’s not uncommon to find guitar picks, drum sticks, bottles of whiskey, flags, and other trinkets near their graves left as tributes.

Legendary and taken from us much too soon, may the music and legacy live on forever. Long live the music of Pantera and Arlington’s own Guitar Hero!


Blog post by Jason S. Sullivan, 12-08-20.

“Dimebag Darrell with Pantera” by Rik Goldman is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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