Peg begged me to go to the Pantera concert, but I declined. The next day she told me, "Everyone from Dream Street last night was backstage drinking beer. I asked them how they got there and they said, 'Dimebag gave us free tickets to the concert and backstage passes last night.' I had never seen so many people backstage."
When the news of this tragedy hit, Rob Halford, now a Hillcrest resident, issued a statement on the website "Metal Sludge." It read: "His [Darrell's] musicianship was superb and his original style was and will remain an inspiration to players worldwide. His friendship can never be replaced. I first met Dime in 1991. I was in Toronto preparing for the 'Painkiller' tour. I had MuchMusic TV on and saw this guy talking about metal and wearing a 'British Steel' shirt. From what he was saying and the Pantera video that aired I knew right away that this man was a guitar god. I called MuchMusic and spoke to Dime and that night went to a club and hung with the band. We jammed. From that point on, he and the rest of the band became solid friends. My gut feeling was that this band would be huge."
So Pantera toured with Priest all over Europe. Halford continues, "Of course, so much has happened since those early times and I feel that it's important now that however we take the turn of events in recent years we all stay true to the same belief that Dimebag had about his love of metal, which was to play your heart out and be real wherever you are. Some things that happen in life make no sense at all, but out of pain comes strength and use it as an enduring memory for Dimebag. Love never dies."
Pantera was in our studio for interviews every time they came to town. I don't remember much of what they said because I was usually working or just not listening. But Peg recalls, "They were the nicest guys. Some bands came in with attitudes and were assholes. These guys were always nice. One time my boyfriend Len wanted me to have a drumhead signed by Vinnie. Sometimes people spell things wrong, so I said, 'L-E-N' -- saying each letter. He asked again, looking confused. I again spelled it. He ended up signing 'Ellian' -- thinking I was saying a name, not spelling it."
The next time we partied with Pantera was in 1996. They co-headlined a show at the Sports Arena with White Zombie. Again they called Peg the night before to ask, "Where's the party?" There was no party going on that we knew of, but Peg thought fast on her feet. When a listener called in near the end of her shift, it sounded like a large crowd was at that house. She asked if a party was going on. There was. She said, "Can I come over?" Of course, the listener was excited that this DJ he listened to was going to come over. He started screaming when she said, "I'm bringing Pantera with me." He asked, "Did I win some contest or something?" Peg laughed and said, "No -- me and the guys are just looking for a party tonight."
She called me and we met at a house in Clairemont. Andy had Dimebag sign a guitar the second he walked in. (Andy -- if you're reading this, I want a copy of the picture you took!) Near the end of the night, Dimebag was showing Andy how to play some chords.
Everyone began asking Dimebag for autographs and Peg said, "Give the guy a break! Let him grab a beer and chill out." He said, "No, no, it's fine." He signed autographs for half an hour, before drinking. One guy called him "Diamond." I said, "No, his nickname is Dimebag." I was quickly corrected. The fan told me "He started out being called Diamond Darrell, but somewhere it got switched to Dimebag. I think because he always has a dime bag of pot on him."
Of course, everyone was also handing him joints, which he'd gladly toke, and hand back. One guy said to me, "I'm going to save this joint. I'm going to tell people that Dime actually took a toke from it." I wonder if it will end up on eBay now.
As it got later in the evening, more and more people began to show up at this small house. I noticed Andy calling friends on the phone and I told him, "If too many people show up, the cops will probably close things down. And the guys are going to get sick of being asked the same questions over and over. I think they just want to party, not act like rock stars." He hung up the phone saying, "That's cool, that's cool."
At the Sports Arena, Peg and I were on one side of the stage, watching. Pantera had a banner behind them with a marijuana leaf on it and everyone was throwing joints onstage. Dimebag was lighting them up right onstage. At one point he staggered over and put his arm around Peg, offering her one. She refused, and he started talking incoherently to her, smiling and laughing. We both realized that he wasn't playing his guitar and the song was still going on. She pushed him back to the stage and he started playing again. It was so odd.
Pantera once came to town with Ozzy Osbourne. Upon this tragedy, Osbourne released this statement: "Dimebag was a dear friend of mine. I'm absolutely beside myself with grief. I can't for the life of me understand why someone would do this. Pantera toured with me many, many times. I'll always remember the signed guitar that he gave me at my 50th birthday party. My heart goes out to Dime's family, his fans, and the other innocent victims who were killed in this senseless tragedy. It's just terribly, terribly sad."