Black Tooth Grin: The high times, good times, and tragic end of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott by Zac Crain
It was with pleasant intrigue that I came across this recent addition to the Stillwater Public Library in my local community. Published in 2009, by Da Capo Press, Black Tooth Grin traces a linear path of the life of Darrell Abbott, better known as Dimebag by the music world and his friends.
Zac Crain’s writing felt a bit sterile during the early chapters, but Crain loosens up into a hybrid of riveting novel and factual reporting, like the journalist that he is. His use of block quotes from interviews is liberal, but they flow with the story. Of course, we know how this story ends.
Many of us who came to know Dimebag his genius guitar playing with Pantera and on into Damageplan only know the surface of what made the man tick. My unique perspective coming into this book is that I know the creative mind and soul and how it ticks – always a bit off-kilter. I am one, my first husband was one, and many of my friends are that I have met along the way in my life. Crain tried to ferret that out, post-humously, through extensive research from existing articles that Dimebag did during his lifetime and through lengthy discussions with the persons in Dimebag’s life who were close to him.
I’m tempted to give a lot of spoiler facts in this review, but I’ll leave that for your own discovery. I will say, however, that I’ll bet the person that Zac Crain wanted to interview the most was Darrell’s and Vinnie Paul’s mother, Carolyn Abbott. If you believe in Heaven, she was waiting for her son to arrive in the clouds.
For folks who were raised on or spent their early adult life (like myself) falling in love with the sound of Pantera, as it broke ground for the so-called nu-metal bands that came in the days after the Seattle grunge scene collapsed, Black Tooth Grin will bring back some memories. It also sheds some light on the breakup of Pantera when Phil Anselmo left to pursue other projects.
As I read along, there was a lot of emphasis on Dimebag’s comsumption of Jack Daniels shots with a splash of Coca Cola – called a Black Tooth Grin – among other types of alcohol. He had reached the point of what is called a functioning alcoholic since it was not affecting his playing ability or performance on statge. However, I am left to wonder, how long would he have lived if he had not gotten shot at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio?
The book does include a discography of Dimebag’s projects through the years. I just may have to go vinyl store digging. That is if you all don’t beat me to it. I see Power Metal is available on import CD from amazon.com, much to Phil Anselmo’s chagrin, I can assure you.
My reasoning for 4 out of 5 is the weak opening quality of the writing, plus I feel that while Crain dug deep and did treat his subject with respect, I wanted to have him go a little deeper, psychologically, but sometimes that’s when doors shut and you have to know your limits as a writer. I do recommend this book whether you were a huge fan of Pantera or not.