Five Dimebag Darrell Memories in Honor of Phoenix DimeFest

Ten years ago this December, a musical icon was taken from the world of heavy metal far too early.

When Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott was gunned down performing with his band Damageplan in Ohio, we didn't just lose a guitar legend. To those who knew him, he was one of the most down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky guys around. His comic relief and pranks were legendary. His generosity and dedication to fans was revered. And his passion for the music was downright contagious.

I've argued with many about this matter -- there are some people who have said that Pantera is overrated and Dime wouldn't be held on such a high pedestal if he were still around. I disagree. It's not just because I'm a huge fan of Dime's preferred drink, the Black Tooth Grin (and the Megadeth lyrics that inspired the shot's name), or that I randomly decided to get a Cowboys from Hell tattoo on my neck one New Year's Eve a decade ago.

It it doesn't matter if you are a fan of Pantera or not -- there's no denying that Dime was a natural genius on the guitar. His speedy fingers, twangy blues-meets-speed metal style, and rampaging riffs. There's no doubt that his talent would've progressed much further. That's why every year around the musician's August 20 birthday, heavy metal fans all over the organize DimeFest.

Arizona's official tribute to Dimebag Darrell is at Joe's Grotto on August 23. Expect to see an array of favorite local metal bands jamming out on two different stages, playing their own music as well as Pantera favorites. The lineup includes Altered Silence, Killing Spree, She Murdered Me, Dead Swarm, Talk to Sheep, Deathgrip, Betrayal of Allies, and Twelve Gates. The event raises funds for one of Dime's favorite charities, Little Kids Rock.

In honor of Dime's birthday, my excitement for DimeFest, and the 10-year anniversary of his death, we've compiled five of the best Dimebag memories. Or rather, the top five things he will always be remembered for.

1. A Teen Guitar Prodigy

Darrell was known for beating everyone out in the local Dallas guitar competitions from a young age, and was eventually banned from some so others could have a chance to win. In fact, in a 2010 Guitar World interview, Dime's father Jerry Abbott said that he realized how serious his son was about music when he entered his school's talent competition at 12 years old. When the curtain opened, he was standing there with his guitar and tiny amp, wearing a KISS costume and Ace Frehley makeup. There's nothing better than watching a video of a gangly kid shred a guitar that's almost equal to his size.

2. He Was a True Fan, So He Genuinely Respected His Own.

Dime was always a huge KISS and Van Halen fan, and attributes his own path to his love for those bands. He showed respect to the music and the artists, and that respect was returned to him. Case in point: Eddie Van Halen brought Dime's favorite guitar of his, the historic black and yellow Bumblebee Charvel Hybrid VH2 that's on the Van Halen II album, to bury with Dime. In a KISS Kasket. With bottles of Crown Royal. According to Eddie, "Dime was an original, and only an original deserves the original!" He also had an Ace Frehley tattoo (complete with his autograph) on his chest. How's that for dedication to your influences? And since Dime always appreciated the time with his idols, he made sure to give that same time to his fans who cherished him. He never said no, whether it was to have a beer, an autograph, a chat, or a guitar lesson.

3. He Had Kickass Taste in Guitars.

Now, I know that the debate about the best electric guitars is never-ending, from Fender to ESP to Gibson Les Paul, but I've always had a thing for Dean guitars. At the National Association of Music Merchants earlier this year, I wandered around the Dean tent, plucking the mini Flying V ukuleles, and fawning over the Far Beyond Driven model (one of my favorite album covers without question). And Dimebag started his love for the guitar early on. One day when he was teenager, his dad gave him a Dean Standard with a cherry-burst finish before a local contest. Dime ended up winning, and the prize was, you guessed it, a Dean ML. He sold the guitar to his friend Buddy Blaze, who painted it with that infamous lightning bolt. So that was the day Dime received two Dean guitars.

After awhile, Dime had quite the catalog of guitars with the Dean brand. From the Dime Slime to the Rust From Hell, Dime's lineup of Dean guitars is pretty drool-worthy.

4. His Reputation for Epic Pranks.

It seems like anyone who has ever toured with Dime or was friends with him became a target for one of his famous pranks. The more I hear about them, the more I wonder, where the hell did he come up with that?! For example, White Zombie's Sean Yseult recalls a prank that Dime loved so much, he did it to her twice. When she was on stage he would send a roadie to pour a hundred dollars worth of pennies into her engineer boots, making her feet weigh a ton so she could barely move. He would also would strap inflatable sharks to the top of their tour van, and set up snow machines during the band's sets. As she said, "Everything had some significance and meaning to him, but I don't remember what that could've meant."

5. Top Guitar Solos

I'm not gonna lie. I got a little choked up watching these. Dime's solos as a whole were dynamic, soaring and full of emotion. He had the ability to tell a story with his music, much like a hardcore blues player. From the shrill shredding on "Domination" to the lovely execution on "Walk" to anxiety-riddled melody of "Message in Blood," here's 10 to enjoy.

Also, I recommend paying tribute with a listen to "Cemetery Gates." It might be one of Pantera's mainstream songs, but this power ballad is all about sorrow, death and loss, and the fury that goes along with it. Dime's classic work brings it to a whole new level... ahem. Or read the book Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. The book, aptly described as "a moving portrait of a great artist," was well-written, and the documentation of the night he died will catch your breath in your throat.

Now go getcha' pull.

DimeFest is scheduled for Joe's Grotto on Saturday, August 23.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise