“Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbott turned metal into art. In this blog post we’ll zoom in on three things that make this virtuoso one of the best guitarists that’s ever walked the earth. It’s Rocktober after all, so let’s celebrate some awesome shreds!
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
In this blog post about Dimebag Darrell you’ll find
Glam rock flavour
“Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbott was the guitarist of the bands Pantera and Damageplan. This young virtuoso turned metal into art with his unique vision on riffs and solos. Dimebag died in 2004 on the same day as John Lennon (8th of December) at the age of 38, when a fan came onto the stage during a Damageplan show, and started shooting at the band. At Darrell’s funeral, Eddie van Halen placed one of his famous Frankestrat guitars on the casket.
His friend Terry Glaze later said in an interview that if the twelve year old Dimebag would have known that Eddie van Halen would sacrifice his guitar in his honor, he would probably have said: “Kill me now!” This is how big the influence of glam rock was for the guitar player.
Bands like Judas Priest, Kiss and Van Halen were Darrell’s muses. At the age of twelve he got his first guitar from his dad, country music producer Jerry Abbott. From that day on the little boy would run around in his Kiss outfit and mimic power stances, even though he couldn’t play a single chord. Six years later he would be one of the best guitarists to walk the earth.
Turning shredding into art
So what happened in those six years? Well, young Dimebag started jamming with his brother Vinnie Paul Abbott. Jams that started from just the main riff of Smoke On the Water by Deep Purple — six hours straight — to more sophisticated stuff like Eruption by Van Halen.
Unlike most virtuosos, Darrell didn’t only practice his technique, but he learned to speak with his guitar in a Jimi Hendrix kind of way. Always grooving, using the instrument its fullest with characteristic “dive bombs” and squeals. Growing up in an environment where a lot of blues and country dominated the speakers — his dad’s studio — left a mark on his perception of guitar music.
One of the signature aspects of Dimebag’s sound is the fact that he plays on a transistor amplifier, instead of a tube amp. The transistor has less of a warm character, which makes it sound more aggressive. Another thing that differentiates the characteristic Pantera guitar flavour is the absence of the midrange in the sound. Darrell turns down all the mid out of the equalizer, leaving only the treble and the bass active.
By the age of fourteen the youngster entered his first guitar contest, and won. One of the judges — founder of Dean Guitars, Dean Zelinsky — recalls that Darrell blew away his competition with his shreds. Using the major third in his melodies, together with a lot of blues pentatonics, and a nice flavour of Eddie van Halen-like soloing, Dimebag claimed his throne. After winning most of the contests in his region, the young rock star was asked to become a judge himself, just to give others a chance.
Unconditional love for the instrument
In the VH1 documentary “Pantera- Behind the Music” Vinnie Darrell tells the story of how his little brother became immediately obsessed with the guitar as an instrument. “He even took it with him to the bathroom.” And it didn’t end there.
The young Darrell was in love with Dean guitars, especially the ML models. He knew the Dean catalogue inside out, all the specs of the guitars, and what made them sound the way they did. Remember that Dean Zelinsky was the judge at Dimebag’s first contest? Well, he became a fan afterwards, and gave the young rocker a chance to build his own guitars and release them under the Dean brand.
Most of them have unique artworks, and are equipped with the adjustments Dimebag made, like his signature Seymour Duncan SH13 Dimebucker and DMT Design neck humbuckers that deliver all the high-output sonics. Sounds cool, right? Check out the artist pages of Pantera and Damageplan to get some of the real action. Happy jamming!