I’m surprised that the news has spread so quickly about guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell being shot at a club last night. Being a big fan of his, I took interest, but I didn’t think the mainstream press would care much. At any rate, here’s my Darrell story…
In the fall of 1991, I was starting my freshman year at college, and was none too pleased about it. It was something I had to do, not something I wanted to do. I had my band in Columbia, and wanted to pursue that full time. But I knew that wasn’t going to fly with Mom and Dad. So I went, but turned to (what else?) music to deal with my frustration. I read in a couple of guitar magazines about this band Pantera that was supposed to be really good. So I picked up their latest release one weekend when I was home from college.
I popped it into my CD player on the way back to school, and was completely blown away – heavy as anything I had ever heard, but instead of just bludgeoning you over the head like a musical sledgehammer, there was some great songwriting to be found on that disc as well. And the guitar playing was amazing – Diamond (as he was referred to in the liner notes – I always thought it was an appropriate nickname, as it described his playing perfectly. But I guess it doesn’t have the same street cred as “Dimebag” :/ ) was very technically proficient, yet was able to pull off things that you just wouldn’t think would fit in a metal song… lots of country-ish licks that sounded perfectly natural in the context of the rest of the song. His dad is a country musician/producer, so I guess the apple doesn’t fall *too* far from the tree.
The rest of the guys in our band were also impressed, and Pantera quickly became one of our favorite bands. So much so that when they came to Nashville in 1992, we were at the club hours ahead of time to see if we could get backstage passes somehow. So around the middle of the afternoon, the four of us were poking around behind 328 Music Hall where they were unloading, and we ran into one of their roadies, Hank. He said he could hook us up with some passes if we could get him some pot (Hence the name “Dimebag”, I suppose). Well, none of us knew where to get any, and even if we could, weren’t at all comfortable with the idea. So after carting this guy around town for a couple of hours, he agreed to give us passes and some posters for $10 each.
So there we were, in the club while Pantera and White Zombie did their soundchecks. At one point Darrell walked out to where we were standing – still playing guitar – not three feet from us and tossed a pick in our direction – I think Johnathan got it, I don’t remember… we all ended up with picks before the night was out though. Very nifty. After the soundcheck, we walked around to the front door of the club where a large line had already formed. And there in the front of the line were some friends of ours from a “rival” band 🙂 The look on their faces as they realized we were *inside* the club listening to the soundcheck and they were still out in the cold was priceless!
After a couple more hours, the show started. For the opening act, we were all in the very front, but there were so many people in the club, and they were so aggressive, that we all eventually climbed over the front barracade so we could go around the side and move to the back. By the time Pantera came on stage, people were literally (and I mean literally) hanging from the rafters… easily a thousand people crammed in the club meant for about half that. It was also one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever been to – they had a PA meant for an outdoor concert set up in this relatively small club. Absolutely deafening.
Once the show was over, we found our way to the backstage area where we got to talk with all the guys in the band and get autographs. They were all very nice – much more so than their music and on-stage persona would lead you to believe. I still have my backstage pass signed by all four members of Pantera somewhere in a box.
In the following years, I shed most of my teenage angst, and Pantera’s music just doesn’t resonate with me the way it once did. I’ll occasionally listen to a few of their songs when I want to get fired up for a workout or a race or something. But Pantera and Darrell will always be the soundtrack to a brief stretch of time in my life. He’ll be missed.
Edit: A nice article from the San Francisco Chronicle