It’s been 15 years since DImebag Darrell Abbott was shot dead on stage, leading to reactions of shock and grief across the world. The former Pantera guitarist was 38 years old when a deranged fan opened fire in the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, just as his latest band Damageplan began their performance. Three others died and three more were injured. Dimebag’s brother and bandmate, Vinnie Paul Abbott, saw it happen from behind his drum kit just feet away.
A public memorial drew attendees including Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, Jerry Cantrell and others. Van Halen donated his “Bumblebee” guitar to be buried with Dime in a Kiss Kasket provided by Gene Simmons. After that, many people – including Paul and Dime’s girlfriend Rita Haney among them – were determined to keep the late guitarist’s legacy alive.
In the years immediately following his passing, the tradition of an annual Dimebash jam was developed with the help of Haney. Speaking just before 2019’s edition, which featured Dave Grohl, Corey Taylor and over 50 other rock artists, Haney said: “Crazy thing about this event is, you never think the last one can be topped. But when this much creativity comes together in one room, dude, watch it go! It will light you up! The vibe is always so incredible. It’s like that vibe you get on Christmas Day, before you unwrap your presents, and the excitement of not knowing what you’re going to get. But I guarantee it’s not those shitty socks you get from your grandma every year. You’re gonna dig it and leave with a smile! That’s the magic ‘something Dime’ can create.”
Also in 2006, Dime, Paul and Pantera bassist Rex Brown appeared on outlaw blues artist David Allan Coe’s album Rebel to Rebel. It was an experimental project, fusing country and metal, and although it took many by surprise it achieved recognition for crossing genres – and also for Dime’s intelligent guitar work, which helped make the welds seamless. “It doesn’t mesh well… But after listening to the album a few times, it starts to make more sense,” one reviewer wrote.
Paul began work on a series of DVD releases titled Dimevision, where he shared home video footage of his brother at work and play. Dimevision Vol. 1: ‘That’s The Fun I Have… was released in May 2006. The second part, Dimevision Vol 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over, arrived in 2017, including previously unreleased demos; and it’s believed much more archival material remains unseen.
Dimevision 2 Trailer – Dime Gets Fitted for CPAP Machine
In addition, Paul remained determined to finish Damageplan’s second album and release it “some day,” saying in 2005: “Right now I’m still too flipped out to even go in the studio. I’ve been down there a time or two and it just wigs me completely out. But I guarantee you at some point I will do something with those tracks. Either I’ll have some of Dime’s favorite singers sing on ’em and turn them into jams, or maybe Pat [Lachman, vocalist] will sing on them and it’ll be Damageplan II. I don’t know yet. Right now they’re magic that hopefully someday everybody will get to hear, and as long I’m around, I think eventually they will get heard.”
However, Paul’s personal plans to keep his brother in the spotlight ended when he died aged 54 in 2018, as a result of complications from an enlarged heart. He was buried in a Kiss Kasket alongside Dime on the family plot.
Before his passing, however, he’d managed to achieve one of the most touching tributes, when he and his band Hellyeah included a track of Dime’s guitar on their cover of the Phil Collins classic “I Don’t Care Anymore.” The group had been looking for a cover version to round out that year’s album Undeniable. “We were basically done recording and we were sitting in the control room talking about songs we liked,” Paul explained later. “[Guitarist] Christian Brady said he loved the song ‘I Don’t Care Anymore.’ I started laughing and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me – me and Dime covered that 14 years ago when we were in Damageplan.’ Then Kevin [Churko, producer] chimed in that he’d worked with Phil Collins, and how cool would it be if we did this?”
In another interview, Paul recalled: “When Kevin [Churko, producer] got the tracks isolated, he synced them up, and when we listened them it totally gave me goosebumps. We’ve always felt like he’s been a part of this band since day one. We felt like his energy and his spirit was always with us. And for people to be able to hear him again in 2016 puts a big smile on my face.” He also noted: “I think it’s truly amazing that in the year 2016 people get to hear Dimebag again – and blazing across the radio, because Pantera never was on the radio back in the day.”
Hellyeah Featuring Dimebag – ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’
That same year, Paul returned to Columbus for the first time since the shooting, when Hellyeah appeared at the city’s Rock on the Range festival. Reporting that the band had been invited many, many times, he explained: “I really didn’t feel like it was right. I didn’t feel like I was gonna be comfortable going there. And for some reason this year when it came along I sat down and thought about it and I was just like, ‘You know, I haven’t been there. I can’t blame the people from the city of Columbus for what happened.’ It went absolutely awesome and I was really happy when that day was over. I took a big, deep breath and said, ‘Okay, man. That’s something that’s behind me now and I’m really happy that we did it.’”
One of the main reasons that Pantera had never reunited – with Wylde often cited as one of the few people who could stand in for Dime – was the breakdown in relations between Paul and frontman Phil Anselmo. The barrier had become seemingly impassable when quotes about Anselmo wishing Dime would be “beaten severely” happened to be published at the time of his murder. In later years Paul would insist there was no bad blood remaining; but asked in 2016 about his former bandmate, he stated: “I don’t speak for him. I don’t answer to him. He doesn’t exist in my world.”
Despite the personal issues, Anselmo played his own part in keeping Dime’s memory alive. When performing with Down, he would regularly dedicate the song “Lifer” to his former bandmate. His band Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals performed a set of Pantera tracks as an opening act during the last leg of Slayer’s farewell tour this year. The Illegals had staged their first such performance in 2018. “Let’s make this clear. I’m doing this set in honor of Vince and Dime,” Anselmo had said at the first show. Earlier this year he reported: “[A]fter Vin’s passed, a lot of people did approach me and say, ‘Man, you got to give tribute man, you’ve got to do it, man, play some Pantera songs.’ I’ve always resisted and, you know, it finally felt right.” He said the feeling was of a “full circle” because “we were touring with Slayer back in 2001 and that was our last tour, so, to be back with those guys playing the songs, seeing them on the side of the stage, just smiling ear to ear and loving it man, it’s amazing. … I love playing the tunes for all the old-timers that grew up with us, but also gotta give a big shoutout to all the new blood that never had a chance to see Pantera.”
Asked in 2016 what he’d like to say to Dime if he could, Anselmo replied: “I would say, Bubba, I miss you so much, I love you so much. You feel like jamming?’ If he could hear me, I’d have a lot more to say than just that. I’d have a lot to say, and a lot of it would be about jamming and about love.”
That same year, looking back on his efforts to keep DIme’s legacy going, Paul commented: “It’s sad to say, but you just get larger than life when you’re gone. It’s just really weird. I really appreciate it. The fans have kept his legacy and everything he’s done intact and alive, and it’s just constantly growing. His legend’s huge.”