Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
By Zac Crain
Da Capo Press
303 pages, $15.95
Though you might have read the devastating Vulgar Display of Power, a book about the night guitarist extraordinaire “Dimebag” Darrell was gunned down and Rex Brown’s excellent tome Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera, don’t pass up reading Black Tooth Grin because it goes deeper into the late musician’s life story.
From the moment Darrell Abbott picked up a guitar to the night he was viciously killed onstage, he loved playing the instrument. He was passionate about guitar playing and respected the skill in almost any type of music. He grew up a KISS fanatic, hard rock/heavy metal enthusiast and carried his passion into becoming an elite guitarist.
This book really celebrates Darrell Abbott’s life. There is no doubt he liked to have fun and was probably never sober since Pantera started partying. But everyone who talks about him says he was gentle, gregarious and lived to please his fans. He always wanted everyone to have a good time and there are countless stories of him going of his way to make his fans happy. Because of his giving, humble nature, the way he died, at gunpoint of a disgruntled, mentally unstable fan, made his death all the more shocking.
Author Zac Crain takes us back to how Darrell grew up in Texas. He chronicles his relationship with his father who owned & operated Pantego Studios, as well as his mother and brother Vinnie. This all paints a better, more complete picture of the legendary axe-slinger.
I think one of the most endearing things about “Dimebag” was that he was a fan himself. Whenever he was around his heroes, he would get excited just like the rest of us, which means he was a human being. It’s always enlightening to see people who have accomplished so much still having a spark for what they do and not forgetting where they came from.
Pantera’s ascension up the ranks of metal took years and the changing of not only their musical approach but lead singer. The band started out in Van Halen mode because the brothers admiration of the Van Halen brothers (the two duos played the same instruments). But as the band forged through the 80s, they heard Metallica’s awesome power, which made them decide to go a heavier route. This forced them to find a new singer who could fit that style…enter Louisianan Phil Anselmo.
The people who talk in the book make it clear that Pantera never would have reached the heights they soared in the 90s (hitting #1 on the Billboard Charts with Far Beyond Driven, when metal was dead to most of the world)) without Anselmo. It’s obvious that Anselmo was both the impetus for their lift off and the cause of the band later breaking up.
It’s really great hearing from the representatives from the guitar companies “Dimebag” sponsored. They speak out about their dealings with “Dime” and pass along memories of the good times they shared together. People who were with the band in both the early and later years all share their testimonies of Pantera’s legacy and “Dimebag” in particular.
If you are a fan of Pantera, a guitar player, a rocker or metal head than this is a no-brainier. If you are curious to read about a kid who grew up to live out his dream, you’ll want to read this as well.
Though he was taken away from life far too early, Darrell Abbott was one of the select few of us who accomplished what he set out to do. Read about it in Black Tooth Grin.