Book Review – Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
Black Tooth Grin is an unauthorized biography. It’s probably something you should know before you decide to read this and expect to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Dimebag. Although quite thorough, you don’t always get the most candid view of a person’s life through the eyes of another. The research, however, is evident with a detailed reference list at the end of the book. Having said that, Black Tooth Grin, opens the doors to the life of the Abbott brothers leading up to the tragic end of Dimebag’s life on December 8th, 2004…eerily on the anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination.
Author Zac Crain is no stranger to writing about things entertainment related. He is (or was at the time of the book) the senior editor of D Magazine which highlights hotspots and happenings in the Dallas, Texas area. He has written articles for Rolling Stone and Spin to name a couple of noteworthy sources. Because Crain is from Dallas, he was familiar with Pantera’s rise to fame out of the Texas heat topping the charts in the mid-nineties. Pantera was able to remain hard and heavy and still reach #1 on the Billboard Charts when metal virtually disappeared back underground, unless of course you were Metallica.
The first unauthorized biography of Dimebag, Black Tooth Grin, begins with the Abbott Brothers humble beginnings in Abilene and Arlington, Texas. It progresses onward through the rise/demise of Pantera, the beginning/end of Damageplan, and the aftermath of the Alrosa Villa shooting in Columbus, Ohio. Black Tooth Grin is built from Crain’s research on various interviews, insights, articles, and testimonials from those close to Dimebag and/or the Abbott family.
As a Pantera fan, there was much about the band I didn’t know. During their peak, I happened to be serving overseas and lost touch with metal a little bit. I still had the albums, but I couldn’t get my favorite magazines where I was stationed. For a time I wasn’t able to “know” the bands through their interviews. I didn’t even see any concerts for several years. I just knew the music. For me, the book was enlightening. I got to learn the things about Pantera and the Abbotts that I never got to know when they were active.
A fan who knew every nook and cranny about Pantera, or Dimebag for that matter, will probably not get that much out of this biography. If you have read the articles and followed Pantera’s career from start to finish or even met the band, this bio might only rehash information you already know. Otherwise, Black Tooth Grin is a great read that provides insight into the lives of not only Dimebag, but those he surrounded himself with.
My personal relationship with Pantera is limited to seeing them live four times. I still have a few of Dimebag’s guitar picks I managed to catch at these shows. The first show was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in late 92 or sometime in 93. They headlined a venue called The Myriad with Trouble opening the show. It was the night of my first and only stage dive; thanks to Phil Anselmo for allowing people to get on stage and “have a good time.” I was helped by Pantera security guard Val (seen in the Pantera movies) to get over the barrier, made my climb on stage, shook Phil’s hand, and jumped. If I remember correctly it was during Primal Concrete Sledge and/or Psycho Holiday. I’ll never forget that moment!
The other three times I saw them were my short stateside stint in Texas in the mid 90s (96-97). I saw Pantera three times in both San Antonio (Live Oak Civic Center & Sunken Gardens) and in Austin at the Austin Music Hall. Anthrax opened the Austin show which was a great bill. Pantera’s live set was energetic to say the least which, to this day, rivals just about any band I have ever seen. Man, I bled at Pantera shows, but I brought that on myself.
My only gripe with Black Tooth Grin is that Crain went into great detail about how nice and fun Dimebag was. I knew that beforehand. I saw the movies and saw them live. I could tell Dime was the life of the party and wanted everyone around him to have a good time as well. That particular aspect about Dimebag was reiterated numerous times throughout the book to the point where I felt the author was overstating it so that Dimebag’s name would never be tarnished. It was beat down in such a way as to state…he was a drunk, but a happy drunk so it validated the drinking. I think any Pantera fan would know that Dimebag was about having a good time and yes, alcohol played a part in that. Anyway, that is my only gripe; not that big of a deal. It just seemed like filler at some point. Otherwise, a great insight to the band that probably saved metal as we know it persevering through a tough decade….and Dimebag was a key player in that role.
R.I.P “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott 1966-2004.
*Note – Let’s not forget the other three people that died on that night in December, 2004; Damageplan fan Nathan Bray, club employee Erin Halk, and security guard Jeffrey Thompson.
Author: Zac Crain