Guitarist and producer Darrell Lance Abbott was born in Arlington, Texas, on August 20, 1966. He was the son of Jerry and Carolyn Abbott. Darrell Abbott, better known as “Dimebag” Darrell to his fans, is perhaps best-known for forming the rock band Pantera with his brother Vincent Abbott in the early 1980s. Pantera became one of the world’s most popular metal bands and helped to keep the rock genre alive throughout the 1990s.
Born and raised in the Dallas area, Darrell Abbott was influenced by music at a young age. Son of country songwriter and record producer Jerry Abbott, Darrell and his brother Vincent, better known as Vinnie Paul, were encouraged early on to play music. Despite being surrounded by country music as a child, Darrell was drawn to such rock music influences as Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Ace Frehley of Kiss, Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne’s post-Black Sabbath guitarist). In his early teens, he frequently won local and statewide guitar talent competitions.
Darrell Abbott (on guitar) and his brother Vinnie Paul (on drums) formed the original version of Pantera in 1981 and founded the record label Metal Magic in order to release their music. At first, the band was more pop-oriented and somewhat reminiscent of the so-called Sunset-Strip style of metal rock. Abbott was originally known as “Diamond” Darrell, because of the flashy style of rock music he played.
When vocalist Philip Anselmo joined Pantera in 1987, the band redefined its sound and began playing a harder-edged style that some music critics dubbed “power metal.” It was at this time that Abbott changed his nickname from “Diamond” to “Dimebag.” He reportedly auditioned for the band Megadeth in the late 1980s but was turned down. Pantera signed with a subsidiary of Atlantic Records in 1990 and released the album Cowboys From Hell. Two more albums soon followed, Vulgar Display of Power in 1992 and Far Beyond Driven in 1994. Far Beyond Driven debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard charts and marked the band’s peak of commercial success. Pantera released two more albums and received four Grammy nominations over the course of its career. Abbott lived in Arlington and had a recording studio in his home where several Pantera albums were recorded. However, after persistent feuding between Darrell Abbott and Philip Anselmo, Pantera broke up in 2003.
During that same year that Pantera split up, Darrell and his brother Vinnie Paul formed the new band Damageplan. With Abbott on guitar and Paul on drums, the brothers recruited vocalist Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Kakaha. Abbot produced the group’s debut album, New Found Power, which was released in February 2004. Damageplan traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to play a concert on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa Nightclub. However, during the first song of the evening, audience member Nathan M. Gale fatally shot Abbott, along with concertgoer Nathan Bray, Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk, and Damageplan security guard Jeff Thompson. Apparently, Nathan Gale was upset about Pantera’s breakup and blamed Abbott for the band’s demise.
Darrell Abbott was noted for his short, tight guitar solos, which many critics argued helped preserve the traditional heavy metal sound, even after the genre had lost popularity in the 1990s. He performed on recordings of other groups, including Anthrax and Nickelback. Darrell Abbott also played a cut on Spacewalk: A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996), a tribute album to his early guitar influence, and he and Vinnie Paul collaborated with country musician David Allan Coe. After Abbott’s death, Guitar Player magazine acknowledged him as one of “The 10 Most Important Guitarists Ever.” With his roaring approach and heavy metal guitar riffs, Abbott inspired a generation of young metal guitar players.
Abbott was survived by his father, Jerry Abbott, and his brother, Vinnie Paul. Darrell Abbott’s funeral service took place at the Arlington Convention Center, and he was buried in the Moore Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, along with one of Eddie Van Halen’s guitars.