What do Harley Davidson motorcycles, Dean guitars and southern metal have in common? It's all part of Ride For Dime, a two-day bike rally in honor of the fallen guitarslinger Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott, a Texas legend whose band Pantera helped to establish southern metal as the brutal force that it is.
Starting at the Rail Club in Fort Worth on Friday, August 16, and ending at Trees in Dallas on Saturday, August 17, the event offers a slew of pulse-pounding bands, including Hellbound, a Pantera tribute band; Texas Hippie Coalition, a red dirt metal band; and Dixie Witch, a Texas-based hard rock trio. Two other bands will also be making their first appearance: Generator and Bang Leaf. Drowning Pool headlines at the Rail Club, and Shadows Fall headlines at Trees.
"Just found out by the grace of God or Dimebag or whomever it is keeping an eye on this Ride for Dime thing, it's only going to be 94 degrees on Saturday and partly sunny," says Rob Eichelberger, one of the key orchestrators behind the event.
For those of you who've yet to be baptized in Dimebag's music, Pantera was one of the '90s most influential heavy metal bands. "Cowboys From Hell," "Mouth for War" and "Walk" are just some of the many tracks that still dominate radio stations today.
In early 2000, Dimebag and his brother Vinnie's new band Damageplan was quickly following in Pantera's footsteps with hits such as "Fuck You," "Newfound Power" and "Moment of Truth" before a crazed "fan" charged the stage at a concert in Ohio and murdered the Texas guitarslinger during the band's first song of the night, ending the band's new-found power.
Eichelberger met Dimebag and Vinnie when they were in elementary school. Later, Eichelberger was dating former Pantera singer Terry Glaze's sister Shelly. "She was working at a skating rink called Big Wheels where I worked," he says. Like many Arlington kids in those days, the couple watched the band practice and attended their shows at small venues.
"I remember going to see them at Graham Central Station. They had such a pissed off bunch of parents because they played 'Shout at the Devil,'" a song that parents thought conjured Ol' Black Tom himself. "I swear, they were definitely ready for the arena before they were finished with the clubs. They had the big fire flashes. It was a huge production show for a local band."
After Dime's murder in 2004, Eichelberger posted on Damageplan.net forum: "We ought to put together a memorial ride like they do for Stevie Ray Vaughn." Dan McNew, the future president of Ride for Dime, agreed and replied, "I'd rent a bike for an event like that."
A few months later, McNew and Eichelberger are riding with a few dozen other bikes in honor of their fallen friend. "Halfway through, 17 were left," explains Eichelberger, "and only two of them finished the ride; the rest of us stayed at bars along the way."
Since that first year, Ride For Dime chapters have expanded all over the country, raising money for the Little Kids Rock foundation. "We want to make sure we keep instruments in kids' hands," Eichelberger says. "We're trying to put together a scholarship fund in the name of Darrell Abbot called the 'Ride For Dime Scholarship.'" The people behind Ride For Dime hope to fund small scholarships that purchase books for kids. "As the Ride For Dime Scholarship grows, we're hoping to offer full-ride scholarships and have Darrell putting some kids through school."
But there are doubters of the Dime. "Man, I'm going to tell you," Eichelberger says. "A lot of people think we do Ride For Dime because we want Pantera and Dimebag Darrell to live on. But, man, anybody who knows anything about Dime and his music knows it doesn't need our help at all." No, it doesn't. The Dime's music is a force of its own.
"What we try to do. We try to let people know what kind of person Dime was. I've been doing this for nine years, and I've never heard a bad story about him."
Nor will you ever hear one. Dimebag was not only a brilliant guitarslinger but also a gentle outlaw, a man whose heart was the size of Texas. One legendary story that follows the Dime claims that he was signing records at a guitar store when a young fan told him that he had guitar in layaway as a Christmas gift. Dime paid for the guitar and said, "Don't wait for Christmas, lil' dude. Start now." Guitar legend Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen fame was so moved by Dime's talent and heart that the he buried his prized yellow Bumblebee Charvel Hybrid VH2 guitar with the fallen Texas guitarslinger.
"It's because of all the people who still have that love or fascination is the reason the Ride for Dime keeps growing," explains Eichelberger. "Darrell's been gone for 9 years, and the charity is getting bigger not smaller. That's really unusual when it comes to anybody who passes. We want to make sure the man whom Dimebag Darrell Abbot was is not forgotten."
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But never fear true believers - Texas will never forget its fallen sons (or daughters, for that matter).
This year's 9th annual ride will begin at Longhorn Harley Davidson, a store whose large parking lot of bikes and more bikes offers the perfect launching point, in Grand Prairie at 5:00 p.m. and will take 55 minutes, give or take a few minutes, as the parade passes Dime and Rita's house and the cemetery gates where Dime's body rests.