'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott

Heavy metal guitarist with Pantera and Damageplan
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Darrell Lance Abbott, guitarist, songwriter, singer, producer and night-club owner: born Dallas, Texas 20 August 1966; died Columbus, Ohio, 8 December 2004.

With the hard rock group Pantera, the guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott helped define the thrash-metal genre so beloved of teenagers the world over and influenced the likes of Korn and Slipknot.

Jettisoning their early glam-metal sound for a relentless riff-based approach with the arrival of the charismatic lead vocalist Phil Anselmo in 1988, the Texas four-piece Pantera signed to Atco/Atlantic and issued the appropriately titled Cowboys from Hell album in 1990. Over the next 10 years, they released five more albums - including Far Beyond Driven (1994) which reached the Top Three on both sides of the Atlantic - and earned Grammy nominations for best metal performance with "I'm Broken" and "Revolution is My Name", two singles which made the charts in Britain, where the group had a strong fan base, second only to their US cult following.

An extreme guitarist who really tortured his instrument and played bludgeoning riffs and fast solos, Abbott also contributed to recordings by Anthrax, Nickleback and David Allan Coe.

When Pantera split up acrimoniously two years ago, fanatical devotees of the band blamed "Dimebag" Darrell and his brother, the drummer "Vinnie Paul" Abbott, who went on to form Damageplan. The group were touring the US to promote their New Found Power début when a disgruntled fan shot "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott dead on stage in Columbus, Ohio, last week.

Born in Dallas in 1966, Darrell Abbott and his older brother Vincent came from a musical background. Their father Jerry owned a recording studio where he worked with the country musicians Buck Owens and Freddy Fender and the boys picked up whatever instrument was lying around the premises. Darrell Abbott became a big fan of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Kiss and Van Halen and played drums until his early teens, when he switched to guitar while Vincent ventured behind the kit.

The Abbott brothers forged a dynamic partnership and launched Pantera in 1983 with the bassist Rex Rocker (né Brown) and original singer and guitarist Terry Lee Glaze. At first, the group followed the well-trodden path of the hair-metal bands of the day, singing cliché songs like "Ride My Rocket" and "Rock Out!" and supporting Dokken, Stryper and Quiet Riot after issuing their Metal Magic début on their own Metal Magic label.

By their fourth album, Power Metal (1988), Pantera had become a different, much more sanguine, tattoo-covered beast; Phil Anselmo had replaced Glaze, Vincent Abbott had become "Vinnie Paul" and his brother Darrell had reinvented himself, first as "Diamond" Darrell and subsequently as "Dimebag" Darrell, in a lateral reference to the price of a bag of dope.

Abbott hit his stride as a guitarist, pioneering a power-groove sound and even singing lead vocals on "P*S*T*88" - a song also known as "Pussy Tight" - on the Power Metal album which sold a remarkable 35,000 copies on Pantera's self-financed imprint. This attracted the attention of Megadeth, who were down to a nucleus of the front man and guitarist Dave Mustaine (formerly of Metallica) and the bassist Dave Ellefson. The pair offered Darrell Abbott the second-guitarist gig but got cold feet when he suggested his drumming brother came in to complete the line-up and the idea was abandoned.

Determined to make their mark, the new-look Pantera were offered a deal by Atco/Atlantic, unleashed the swaggering Cowboys from Hell and began a never-ending world tour. If anything, Vulgar Display of Power (1992) sounded even more aggressive and established them as a meaner alternative to the grunge rockers Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. The singles "Mouth for War" and "Walk" even entered the UK Top Seventy-five while Pantera went from strength to strength and gained headliner status.

The brooding Far Beyond Driven confirmed Pantera's position in the metal pantheon; in 1994 they played the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival, covered Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" and contributed to the soundtrack of The Crow but, by the time of The Great Southern Trendkill and its "Suicide Note" suite in 1996, the group was splintering. In July that year, the vocalist Phil Anselmo, who had launched the side project Down, survived a heroin overdose but Darrell Abbott kept drinking himself into oblivion.

Indeed, in the mid-Nineties, the Abbott brothers opened the Clubhouse, a golfcourse-inspired strip-club in their native Dallas, decorated with their gold records and assorted memorabilia. "That's the best investment we ever made," admitted the guitarist:

We lost a fortune on the stock market but, with this, every month, it's pay, pay, pay. It's kept us afloat. Tits and ass are never going to go out of style.

Pantera soldiered on with Official Live - 101 Proof, an album mostly drawn from concert recordings in 1997, supported Kiss in South American stadiums and took part in two Ozzfests - the Sharon Osbourne-masterminded touring summer festivals headlined by Ozzy Osbourne in America - in 1997 and 2000, as well as criss-crossing the US on a joint bill with the re-united Black Sabbath in 1999. They spent a gruelling 2001 touring and promoting Reinventing the Steel, the final Pantera album, and topped the "Tattoo the Planet" tour of European arenas with Slayer, Cradle of Filth and Static-X in the autumn of that year.

In 2003, Darrell Abbott and his brother Vincent decided they "didn't want to paint the same fucking picture 15 million times" and formed Damageplan with the bassist Bob Zilla (né Kakaha) and the vocalist Patrick Lachman and released New Found Power, their first album, in February this year. "We've always been about the 'Power Groove', the aggression, as well as good songwriting and we love a fucking melody," said the guitarist, who produced the album with his brother:

After kickin' ass for so long and realising you're starting over, it re-energises you. We know a lot of fucking bands don't make it past their second record, much less match the damage we laid down over the years. And then, when it's over and you've done it, most of the motherfuckers run from it like: "Goddamn, I can't believe I'm still alive." We take the opposite approach. We were just getting good at this, really, we're just getting warmed up.

Pierre Perrone