Music History

Those Closest Remember the Late Dimebag Darrell On His 50th Birthday

"Dimebag" Darrell Abbott would've been 50 this Saturday if a deranged fan hadn't ended his life in 2004. Every year since, friends, family and fans have gathered for the Ride for Dime, which takes place this year on the Pantera guitarist's 50th birthday. In honor of the fallen legend, the Observer combed through its archive of reporter's notes and pulled several stories about Dimebag from his loved ones and friends.

Rita Haney, Dimebag's widow

We were eight years old. My cousin, who still lives around the corner from Darrell’s mother’s house, and my aunt would keep us after school until my mom got off work. We would all play and hang out at the bike trails. I pushed Darrell off his bicycle. I don’t remember what he said to me, but I was bigger than him. So, yeah, we just became friends.

I know there was like a few years in our teen years where I didn’t see them [Darrell and Vinnie] for a couple of years, really. Then we ran into each other at a Heavy Meadows show. I think we were both 14 then because we were both freshmen, and we bumped into each other. I was off into KISS music and so was he. We were going to school at Arlington High and Grand Prairie High. [He was born in Grand Prairie.] But we both dropped out.

Actually, Darrell made it all the way to the first semester of his senior year before he quit. But too many shows, too many late nights.

Rex Brown, Pantera bassist

Growing up with Dime, he was so full of energy, and even at an early age. Once he started with that guitar, he was always playing. We were always playing. I eventually moved in with his mom, and we decided to form Pantera. We started out playing any place that would have us. We were playing birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, playing here and there; wherever. We played six nights a week, three sets a night. We just gelled musically between us so that it didn’t matter who the singer was.

Dime just had a swagger about him. He did those 25 minute solos, and the fucking way he played. Every emotion; he laid it out on the table. I miss those early days because of the hunger that we had. The strongest one of us all [in Pantera] was Dime, and he kept the peace between all of us. He had this way about him, and he could get away with all kinds of shit. He lit people up just by being nice to them. He just had this glow about him. He had a heart … his heart was just … I can’t explain how huge it was. But you never really get it until somebody is not there anymore. 
Leslie Corbin

I moved here the Christmas vacation of my senior year, and I was like, "Where is the metal at?" I found Savvy’s, and Pantera would play on Tuesday night and play three-hour-long sets. They were doing covers of Van Halen and Judas Priest. We’re the original metal heads. We fucking blew shit up.

Dime was just always smiling and laughing and having a good time. We were at Joe's, and my friend Michelle used to work there. But he wasn’t always drinking Black Tooth. We were drinking Kamikaze, and he was getting us ripped. I don’t know if Rita remembers, but we used to sit at Joe's and watch everyone go by and make fun of them.

Shannon "Shantera" Bolin, Ride for Dime volunteer

Back in 1987, the end of it, I heard about Pantera. I just turned 21, and they were playing at this little bar in Arlington called Metalworks. They were playing Friday and Saturday nights. It was love at first sound. I loved them so much that I went back the next week. I pretty much started going every weekend until they got big and famous. It was Darrell's guitar playing. My guitar hero was c, and I remember Darrell going into this Rhoads type riff. If I didn’t know it was Dime, I would have thought it was Randy. He just had his own different style. Nothing else sounded like it. It was crunchy. He had no facial hair or tattoos at the time. He was a skinny little fart, and I started taking pictures.

I worked at a photomat booth, and I would get double prints, keep a set and give him a set. We became friends. One of my cameras was a 35 mm and had this light and every time you push the trigger down, the light would shoot out like a stoplight, and Dime would come over and pose.

David Ferguson

When I was 19 in 1987, I smoked a joint with Dime and it was like I’d known him for years. Every time I saw him after that he would say, “Goddamn, where you been?” He didn’t know my name for shit, but he made you feel special.

Alapeno Ward, Disciple guitarist

I had always heard of Darrell but, in 1989, some good friends of ours used to be the regular opening band for Pantera, and their drummer had broke his arm and wasn’t able to play some shows that were coming up. He said, “How fast can get your stuff together? We’re opening up for Pantera.” We got our staff loaded and went up to Dallas City Limits. Phil [Anselmo] stood in front of the stage the whole time and later said, “I don’t know where Darrell is, but I told him you’ve got to come and check out this guitar player named Al. You’ll dig the hell out of him.” I met Darrell that night, and he told me that Phil talks about you all the time. He said he promised that he’d be playing tomorrow night and come up there. We got a sound check, and here comes Darrell. He stands in front of me through the whole set. Later, Darrell is backstage, and he’s like, “Dude.” We started doing shots and stuff.

We got real close. We’d be out on the road, and we always took practice amps with us. Everybody else would stay for the after party, and [Dime and I] would always go back to the hotel and trade off licks all night long. 
CJ Pierce, Drowning Pool guitarist

We got to tour with Damageplan. I met those guys because of Dave [Williams]. He was already good friends with Dime and Vinnie. It's the second or third show out in Arlington. We're out there, and Dave is acting weird.

“What's going on, dude?” I asked.

“I heard Dime and Vinnie are coming,” he said.

“That's awesome.”

But Dave's like, “No, no, no. I borrowed $500 from Dime, and I hadn't paid him back. He's been calling me, and I haven't been answering his phone calls. I think they're here to beat my ass.”

So of course, Dave is kind of hanging out in the back, freaking out. Dime and Vinnie come in. They go up to the bar and get their drinks. They got their entourage. I went over there. I said, “Hey guys, I'm CJ from Drowning Pool. I know Dave owes you some money, so if you've come to beat his ass, can you at least wait until after the show?”

They were like, “Nah, man, we came out to hear Dave 'Stage.'” They were actually here just to support Dave and his band.

Mike Luce, Drowning Pool drummer

I was afraid we were going to get blacklisted. To move here from New Orleans and then, a few years later when Dave joined the band, to find out that Dave knew the guys. He would do the couch tour with Dime. And to find out that a band member was in league with Pantera, I was like, “No, you're not. Get out of town.”

But when we found out that Dave owed Dime some money, I was like, “Dude, you're going to get us squashed before we even get to play anywhere.”

So we would threaten Dave's ass. We were like, “We're going to kick your ass if you don't pay this money back.” After we got signed, Dime was just proud as shit of Dave, and he told him, “Look, you don't owe me anything, brother. Take me and all the crew out to a big expensive dinner somewhere.”

Dave threw down a big amount of money for the dinner, which was awesome. Dime got the whole thing on video. There was a dozen of us at the table. It was a pretty joyous occasion. It was killer to be brought into their family so quickly. Like I said, Dave was already there. But for CJ and I, it was pretty overwhelming.

George Call, ASKA singer and guitarist

During the last two years (of Dime’s life), he was present at 80 percent or more of our local shows. He was always out having a good time, always had a guitar in hand. It was magical to behold him walking in the room. It was like the molecules in the air changed by the way the room electrified. True rock star charisma, but he never acted high and mighty. He was always quick with a laugh and a joke.

The last time I saw him we had gone to a Queensryche show in Arlington. We were at the show and I've never asked him for his autograph. I always thought that would be kind of a groupie thing and I knew people hounded him. I didn’t want to be that guy. But they had just put out the Damageplan album, and he’d given me a gold-seal promo copy — that was the first thing he’d ever given me that wasn’t an alcohol beverage — and I told him to go ahead a sign it. He died two months later. 
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.