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Scott Gries  /  Getty Images file
Heavy metal guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott of Damageplan performs on stage during MTV2 Headbangers Ball Tour April 1, 2004 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Abbott was shot and killed on stage as Damageplan performed at a nightclub in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday.
updated 12/9/2004 4:32:09 PM ET 2004-12-09T21:32:09

“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, who was fatally shot during a performance, was a frenetic, ear-shattering guitarist whose riffs for the Grammy-nominated Pantera and more recently Damageplan were a heavy-metal staple. He was 38.

Abbott was shot to death as he took the stage Wednesday with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio.

Three other people also were fatally shot before a police officer shot the gunman to death.

The deaths shook the heavy-metal music industry, and fans flooded Web sites to share their shock.

“I’m absolutely beside myself with grief. I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would do this,” said Ozzy Osbourne, who often toured with Pantera.

Mark Hunter, lead singer of the metal band Chimaira, said Abbott “changed the way metal music was written with his guitar playing. I don’t know anybody in a band who hasn’t stolen a few guitar riffs from him.”

A fan posting on the band’s Web site read, “This is the worst day in metal history.”

The birth of 'Dimebag'
Pantera’s fast, aggressive sound attracted a massive cult following in the early 1990s, and its third release, “Far Beyond Driven,” debuted at No. 1 in 1994, surprising chart-watchers and critics alike. Other hit albums were “The Great Southern Trendkill” and “Reinventing The Steel,” and a song by the band became the Dallas Stars hockey team’s signature tune in 1999.

“When you think of ’90s heavy metal or hard rock, Pantera is one of these seminal bands. They are quoted today as influences by many bands,” said Tom Calderone, MTV’s executive vice president. “Hard rock has lost a legendary guitar player.”

Pantera was nominated for Grammies for best metal performance in 1995 for “I’m Broken” and in 2001 for “Revolution Is My Name.” The video “The Best of Pantera: Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys’ Vulgar Hits” hit the top 10 for music-video sales earlier this year; another video, “3-Watch It Go,” went top-10 in 1998.

Darrell Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, left Pantera last year and produced Damageplan’s debut album, “New Found Power,” which was released in February.

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Born in Dallas on Aug. 20, 1966, Darrell Abbott was introduced to music by his father, country songwriter Jerry Abbott, who owned a recording studio. The younger Abbott gravitated toward rock music and the styles of Tony Iommi, Ace Frehley, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads.

The Abbott brothers and bassist Rex Rocker formed Pantera in 1983. Then Abbott went by the name “Diamond Darrell.” Abbott later took the moniker “Dimebag” and was often referred to as “Dime” by fans and friends.

Early on, Pantera leaned more toward hard rock, but the band began to develop a heavier sound after singer Phil Anselmo joined in 1987. After releasing a few independent albums, Pantera signed with Atlantic Records in 1990. It was also the period when Abbott came into his own as a guitar player, developing his heavy, frenetic sound that can first be heard on the 1990 album “Cowboys from Hell” and then on the 1992 standout “Vulgar Display of Power.”

Dimebag’s exceptional guitar playing and flair for partying endeared him to friends and fans, and the band was known for post-concert backstage parties spiked with Crown Royal whiskey, said Paul Gargano, executive editor of Metal Edge magazine.

“He was just a huge fan of rock music and heavy metal and the lifestyle,” said Gargano, who considered the guitarist a good friend.

Despite Dimebag’s nickname, Gargono said, “It was funny because I never saw him smoke pot all the time I knew him.”

Pantera’s manager Kim Zide-Davis, who worked with Abbott from 1994 to 2003, called him larger than life, and said she often told the guitarist he was “a living cartoon character.”

“He would do things that you wouldn’t believe a real person was capable of,” she said.

In recent years, Abbott also made recording appearances on Nickleback’s “The Long Road” and with Frehley, of the band Kiss.

Besides the Abbott brothers, Damageplan also includes vocalist Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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