Darrell Lance Abbot, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. He is considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.
Abbott was shot and killed by a gunman while on stage during a performance with Damageplan on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He ranked No. 92 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists and No. 1 in the UK magazine, Metal Hammer.
Abbott was born to Carolyn and Jerry Abbott, a country musician and producer. Before he wanted a guitar, Abbott asked his parents for a BMX bike. He took up the guitar when he was twelve, with his first being a Hondo Les Paul along with a small amplifier. Upon winning a series of local guitar competitions, most notably held at the Agora Theatre and Ballroom in Dallas, Texas, Abbott was awarded a Dean ML. He then sold this guitar to luthier Buddy Blaze, who installed a Floyd Rose bridge and emblazoned it with Abbott’s signature lightning bolt paint job; Blaze returned it some years later. Coincidentally, his father had also bought him a Dean ML the morning before the aforementioned competition, but one with a cherry finish instead. Abbott met his long-time girlfriend Rita Haney at a young age around the third grade.
Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. The band played with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth, Venom, and Metallica as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest. Shortly after singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Darrell was invited by Dave Mustaine to joinMegadeth. Darrell was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hire his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine had already hired drummer Nick Menza, Darrell stayed with Pantera.
Pantera would go on to become a key formulator of the post-thrash subgenre of “groove” metal. It would not be until nine years after forming that Pantera saw its first piece of commercial success in its 1990 major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. Pantera’s “groove” style came to fruition in its breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power, released onFebruary 25, 1992, which saw the replacement of the power metal falsetto vocals with a hardcore-influenced shouted delivery and heavier guitar sound. On Pantera’s 1994 album Far Beyond Driven, Abbott, who’d been listed on all prior albums under the moniker “Diamond Darrell”, was listed as “Dimebag Darrell”. On the night before Pantera’s live appearance at the Monsters of Rock in England’s Donington Park, the Abbott brothers got involved in altercations at a local club with journalists from magazines Kerrang! and Raw.
Pantera began to suffer from mounting tensions between band members in the mid-1990s, largely due to vocalist Phil Anselmo’s rampant drug abuse.
In 2001, the group went on hiatus, during which time Anselmo worked on side projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down. This caused more friction within the band, as the Abbott brothers kept waiting for Anselmo to become available to work with them again. The frustration with Anselmo led to their decision to disband Pantera in 2003.
On December 8, 2004, Abbott was shot onstage while performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. Moments into the band’s set, 25-year-old former marine, Nathan Gale, using a 9 mm Beretta 92FS pistol, shot Abbott three times in the head, killing him instantly. Some in attendance initially believed the shooting was part of the act, but as Gale continued shooting, the audience quickly came to the realization that the event was not staged. Having fired a total of fifteen shots, Gale killed a total of four people while wounding seven others.
Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, the band’s head of security, was killed tackling Gale, as was Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk. Audience member Nathan Bray was killed while trying to perform CPR on Abbott and Thompson. It was rumored that one crowd member leapt in front of the gunman, saving the lives of several band members. Damageplan drum technician, John “Kat” Brooks, was shot three times as he attempted to get the gun away from Gale, but was overpowered and taken hostage in a headlock position. Tour manager Chris Paluska was also injured.
Seven police officers came in the front entrance and moved toward the stage. Officer James Niggemeyer came in through the back door, behind the stage. Gale only saw the officers in front of the stage; he did not see Officer Niggemeyer, who was armed with a 12 gauge Remington 870 shotgun. He approached Gale from the opposite side of the stage to avoid hitting the hostage and fired a single shot just as Gale looked towards Niggemeyer, striking Gale in the face with eight of the nine buckshot pellets, killing him instantly. Gale was found to have had 35 rounds of ammunition remaining.
Two fans administered CPR on Dimebag until paramedics arrived, but were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.