Fellow Rockers and Friends Remember 'Dimebag' Darrell on the 10th Anniversary of His Murder

Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect
Diamond "Dimebag" Darrell, of Pantera, performing at San Jose Event Center in San Jose, Calif. on March 10th 1992.

Ten years after the onstage shooting of Pantera legend “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, Billboard spoke with the guitar god’s friends, family, and fellow rock icons about the hole the 38-year-old shredder’s death left in metal and in their lives. Here are the highlights.

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“When people get interviewed about people who’ve passed away, a lot of times they stretch the truth: They try to make the person sound better than they really were. But he really was a sweetheart of a guy. There’s nothing bad I could say about Dimebag.”
--Ace Frehley, former KISS guitarist

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“I had already heard about Dime before I met him. I had heard stories about this fucking kid who was so badass that he kept winning this contest [in Texas] they had every year for the best new guitar player. He won it so many times they fucking kicked him out and made him a judge.”
--Jerry Cantrell, Alice in Chains guitarist

“I would put Dimebag in the same territory as Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen -- all the [legendary] guitarists that we think about when we think about rock and metal.”
--Rob Halford, Judas Priest frontman

"I saw Pantera in New York with [former Dream Theater drummer] Mike Portnoy. We were watching it, and we were blown away by this whole scene and how heavy the music was and how the riffs were so infectious. It inspired us to approach our [album Train of Thought] in a heavier way. There was so much energy in the room -- it was ridiculous. We walked away thinking, 'Wow. There's something there that's pretty special.' "
--John Petrucci, guitarist for Dream Theater

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“He was like Blutarsky in Animal House; you could just be having the most crap day, and then Dime would walk into the room and the party would begin! [Laughs.] He was like the Rat Pack all in one guy -- he was Dean, Frank, Sammy, the whole Rat Pack in one human being!”
--Zakk Wylde, Black Label Society leader and former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist

“I’ve always said that if he was still alive today, he and I would have buried the hatchet a long time ago, and Pantera absolutely would have continued on and we would have made new records.”
--Phil Anselmo, former Pantera frontman

“It’s so hard to believe it’s been 10 years. The first three years or so after that were a definite blur. People would say things like, “Oh, it gets better after a year,” but in many ways it never really does.”
--Rita Haney, Dimebag’s longtime companion

“He was a trip. There was never a dull moment talking to Darrell. There were sometimes two- or three-day gaps because you had to wait for him to sober up. He made no bones about it. Darrell would get some balls rolling and then he’d say, ‘Talk to Rita [Haney],’ because he’d be out on the road or partying. He was a special guy.”
--Dean Zelinsky, Founder and owner of Dean Zelinsky Private Label Guitars; founder and former owner of Dean Guitars

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“Darrell still has a lot of marketability and I don’t really know that he’d be down with being marketed as much as he is. The Darrell that I know -- he loved to play guitar, and he loved to drink and live life. To me, it seemed that it was never about the money. It was always about the metal. It’s just such a shame that we lost him. ”
--Dave Mustaine, Megadeth leader

"The first time I heard Cowboys From Hell, I was taken aback, especially by Dimebag's style, because I hadn't really heard anything with that approach from a groove standpoint in metal. and with his lead playing, it was really unique. In a sense, it was like Billy Gibbons and Eddie Van Halen were to be combined; that's kind of the sound he was extracting when he'd play his leads. Who knows where Damageplan would have taken things. Who knows if there would have been a reunion with Pantera. Who knows where they would have taken things musically. I do believe that we lost one of metal's greatest guitar players when he was shot, without a doubt."
--Myles Kennedy, singer/guitarist for Alter Bridge; singer for Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators

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"He was just one of those people that everybody loved. It was such shame to lose him. Soon after [he died], a fan was at one of our Alter Bridge shows, and he was passing out pictures of Dimebag. It's an image that shows his face and the years of his life. I put that sticker on my favorite guitar ever, and it's still there today. It was an emotional time when that happened, so I just put it right there on my No. 1 guitar. The picture's kind of faded, but I'll never remove it."
--Mark Tremonti, guitarist for Alter Bridge

"Pantera as an entity was just so important to metal because they didn't give a fuck what anybody else was doing at the time. They just kept doing their thing. When Dimebag died, I had already been living on the West Coast and playing in bands. My band at the time had actually opened for Damageplan [in Portland, Ore., about six months] before he died. So I did have the opportunity to meet him, and I'll never forget that. He was just the sweetest, nicest dude."
--Jinxx, guitarist/violinist for Black Veil Brides

"When you look at Nirvana and the bands like that that were out [when Pantera arrived] and the whole grunge scene, basically you saw heavy metal go from big glam metal and every song had a crazy guitar solo in it, to all of a sudden the guitar solo became uncool and nobody was doing it anymore. It almost became like people just aren't learning how to play their instruments. So when they came out, I think they took everyone by surprise. [Dimebag was] one guy on guitar just shredding and didn't need anybody behind him. I think any lead guitar player is going to have some sort of Dimebag influence: I don't know what metal guitar player would not be a fan of Dime and his playing and style, and take that and twist it and make your own spin off it."
--Jake Pitts, guitarist for Black Veil Brides

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“I loved him instantly. He was true to himself. He was an original character; he was over the top. The more he was with Pantera, the more you would see him in out in public in spandex and Pantera T-shirts and with bandannas wrapped around his arms, stuff like that. He lived it.”
--Buddy Blaze, founder of Buddy Blaze Guitars

“Dime had a way of being the life of the party, no matter what. He had an infectious energy that made even the roughest of times feel a little lighter and a little funnier.”
--Kimberly Zide Davis, current Pantera manager and former VP of Artist Relations, Concrete Management

Reporting by Richard Bienstock, Dan Epstein, and Christa Titus


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