The Story Of Why Eddie Van Halen Buried His Famed Guitar With Dimebag Darrell
Eddie Van Halen / Dimebag Darrell - Youtube
Eddie Van Halen didn’t have enough time to mingle with Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, as they only met a few weeks prior to Darrell being shot dead while on stage with his band Damageplan on that fateful 8th of December, 2004. This didn’t stop EVH from honoring his contemporary though, as he paid tribute to the musician by allowing one of his most famous guitars to be buried with Dimebag Darrell.
Dimebag Darrell’s final words before being assailed and succumbing to the gunshot wounds were “Van Halen”, just as the band was about to start their set. The suspect, Nathan Gale, opened fire on Darrell, hitting him five times on the head which caused his immediate death. Two other people died that night, along with seven injured ones before a police officer neutralized Gale.
Vinnie Paul, Darrell’s brother, and longtime bandmate said that these last words were important for the two of them. “The last thing that really matters to me is the last thing we said to each other before we went on stage. We were warming up on the side of the stage like we always did and we were both really excited… Our code word to let it all hang out and have a good time was ‘Van Halen,’ man! And that’s the last two words we ever said to each other. I said, ‘Van Halen’ and he said ‘Van Halen,’ and we high-fived each other and went on the deck to do our thing… and a minute-and-a-half later I’ll never see him again.”
Dimebag was said to have listened to Van Halen before every show, saying “He plays ‘Eruption’ and you go, “Shit, I never heard a guitar sound like that in my life.’ He was to our generation what Hendrix was to his,” he admitted. Van Halen and Pantera’s common denominator of having siblings on the guitar and drums had Darrell’s band being coined the Texan Van Halen.
Rita Haney, Dimebag’s girlfriend, shares the account of how the two guitarists met. “We had just seen Van Halen in Midland, Texas, a few weeks earlier, and the was the first time Dime ever got to meed Eddie. They hung out before and after the show. Dime even got to play Eddie’s rig at soundcheck. He was like a kid in a candy store,” Rita recalled.
Vinnie Paul recalled how the meeting came to be, after EVH had contacted him at a Texas clubs a few weeks earlier. “We’d been talking maybe 10 minutes, and he goes, ‘You know, man? It’s crazy. We’ve only been talking, like, 10 minutes, but it’s unbelievable how much we’ve got in common — you and your brother, and me and Al[ex Van Halen].’ And it was an amazing thing that happened,” Paul shared.
Eddie was very thoughtful, as Paul recalls during the concert’s night, “Eddie sent a limo to pick us up, which was very cool. And we came in, and he brought us right up on stage and hung out at soundcheck and everything. And the show was amazing.” He continued, “And I’ll never forget. We got on the plane, and when we were flying back to Dallas, my brother looked at me, and he goes, ‘Man, you know what? If this plane was to go down in a crash right now, I’d be okay with it. I finally got to meet the dude that made me wanna play guitar.’ It was really special.”
After Dimebag’s death, the bereaved family and friends were discussing what guitar should go with him on burial, as the casket was already secured by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, calling it the Kiss Kasket. EVH called in as well, with Haney recalling that “Dime [had been] ready to cut him a $30,000 check [the night they met] for one of his striped guitars, but Eddie told him he’d do a special one for him. So I asked him if he’d stripe up a guitar for Darrell. He said, ‘One of the red, white and black ones?’ And I said, ‘No, Darrell always said that the yellow and black was your toughest guitar.’”
During the funeral on December 14th, EVH arrived with a guitar, which surprisingly wasn’t a production model, but the original one pictured on the back sleeve of Van Halen II in 1979. He told Haney that “An original should have an original,” but couldn’t bring himself to view Darrell’s body, saying “I can’t go in there… I want to remember him like he was that night I met him.”
So Haney took the instrument herself and held it as if to have Dimebag take a look at it. She then said, “See, baby? You didn’t get a replica – you got the one!” then proceeded to kiss his forehead as she placed the guitar on his casket.
EVH made a speech for Dimebag’s loved ones, saying “I’m here for the same reason as everyone else: to give some love back… This guy was full of life. He lived and breathed rock ’n’ roll.” He then proceeded to hold his phone close to the microphone so everyone could hear Dimebag’s recorded message for him, which said: “Thank you so much, man, for the most awesome, uplifting, euphoric, spiritual rock ’n’ roll extravaganza ever!”