Jerry Abbott, Country Songwriter and Father of Pantera Brothers, Has Died

To the rock world, Jerry Abbott was known as the father of heavy metal legends “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and Vinnie Paul Abbott, a.k.a. the lead guitarist and drummer for the heavy metal band Pantera, and later Damageplan. Jerry didn’t just sire the rock legends, he was also Pantera’s first manager, and produced four of their early albums.

But before his sons got into music, Jerry Abbott was a country singer, guitar player, songwriter, and also worked as a producer and engineer in the business. Those well-versed in the Pantera world know that the band had close ties to country music, including through Hank Williams III and David Allan Coe. But it all started with their dad, who not just instilled them with a love for country music, but used his knowledge from the country music business to help the band get their start.

Born in Abilene, TX on April 8th, 1942, Jerry Abbott showed promise in music from an early age, taking up piano at age 8, and learning to play guitar when he was 15. After Abbott turned 18 and graduated high school, he started touring throughout Texas, and also played in numerous local country bands while attending college. After graduating with a business degree, Abbott started working as a sound engineer at a recording studio in 1973 where he learned the in’s and out’s of the music business.

In the late ’70s, Jerry Abbott wrote songs recorded by country performer Danny Wood, and Freddy Fender recorded his song “If You’re Ever in Texas.” Then in 1978, Abbott recorded a couple of singles of his own, “I Want a Little Cowboy” and “Owe It All to You.” Neither of the songs went very far. But in 1979, Abbott co-wrote the song “Play Together Again Again” that became a hit for Buck Owens in a duet with Emmylou Harris. The song peaked at #11, gave Buck his first Top 20 hit in years, and the last top 20 hit he’d have as a solo artist.

As Jerry’s two sons were growing up, he heavily influenced their desire to pursue music. Jerry taught his son Darrell guitar, and when they showed interest in heavy metal music, he followed his sons’ passions. Pantera’s early album Metal Magic (1983), Projects in the Jungle (1984), I Am the Night (1985) and Power Metal (1988) were all produced by Jerry, were recorded at his studio Pantego Sound, and released via Metal Magic Records, which was a label Jerry founded under the alias Jerry Eld’n.

Even when Pantera blew up and signed to major label Atco Records, they recorded their next two albums Cowboys from Hell (1990) and Vulgar Display of Power (1992) at Pantego Studios. Jerry was no longer the producer, but remained part of the recording process. During this time, Jerry also produced albums for Texas blues guitarist Bugs Henderson. Abbott later moved to Nashville and continued to pursue songwriting while also opening a new studio, Abtrax Recording. Just like all of their other albums, Pantera recorded their 1994 album Far Beyond Driven at their father’s studio, Abtrax.

Jerry Abbott’s later life was full of tragedy, including outliving both of his sons. Though he divorced his wife Carolyn who was also the mother of Darrell and Vinnie Paul in 1979, the family remained close throughout their lives. Carolyn passed away in 1999 from lung Cancer.

“Dimebag” Darrell was murdered on December 8, 2004 at the age of 38 by a deranged fan while performing in a club Columbus, Ohio as part of the band Damageplan. Three others died, and three more were wounded in the incident as well. Vinnie Paul Abbott died of coronary artery disease at the age of 54 on June 22, 2018.

Jerry Abbott died on April 2nd in a caregiver facility in Denton, TX. He was 80 years old.

In 2005, shortly after the death of Dimebag Darrell, Pantera and David Allan Coe released the collaborative album Rebel Meets Rebel that also featured an appearance from Hank Williams III. Taking the inspiration from their father, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul helped trace the similarities between country and heavy metal through the 12 original songs.

The underground country insurgency that was seeded in the early and mid ’00s owes a lot to the cross pollination of punk and metal fans with traditional country fans of the time. Jerry Abbott was not just an observer of this moment. As an independent studio owner and country songwriter, he was one of the founding fathers of this important moment, seeded through his work with his sons in Pantera.

Jerry Abbott was famously a left handed guitar player. He wrote the book Over My Left Shoulder: The Life and Times Jerry Abbott about his experiences in country music and in Pantera in 2014.

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