Released: 2009, DaCapo Press
Even before the ink had dried the knives were out for the first biography of Darrell Abbott. Among the comments about the book were that it was too early, (too soon after his death) it was unauthorized, and unlikely that an outsider from the Pantera camp could do the story and the man justice.
Zac Crain however was up to the challenge and tackled the story of Darrell. One of many rock star biographies on the shelves in recent years, Black Tooth Grin is conventional paperback, standard font, about 20 black and white pictures and an easy read at about 275 pages. Again like most biographies it follows a conventional line starting with Darrell birth and following his career and post-murder fall-out into 2006.
The book is about Darrell and his life. Naturally Pantera and his musical career is a large part of that but often that is a side component. In fact the other members aren’t referenced very often and Rex is barely mentioned at all. It really is a chronicle about his life in Texas. Some of the most interesting points were stories of the early days, his influences, his family, the modest, now famous Pantego Sound Studios and so forth.
Thankfully the author is not revisionist and goes into considerable detail about the oft-ignored early years of Pantera when they were cranking out high-energy metal and touring the southern United States frequently and heavily. Many people are interviewed, old stage hands, old friends and there are many candid and interesting stories about the good old days.
My only complaint perhaps is the at times excessive praise and worship at the altar of Darrell. My bias stated up front is that I’m not a huge Pantera fan. I intellectually understand their influence on metal in the 90’s but emotionally I was unable to connect with the band and have a hard time understanding the total fan-boy worship of Pantera. Accordingly, when I look at the details of his life, while interesting, he lived a very straight-forward and unassuming life. This is not a criticism but the story of his life is frankly a bit dull. It was like being an outsider at a big drunken frat-party. You had to be there to make the connection.
By way of comparison if you read recent biographies of other metal personalities Alice Cooper for example, Alice has done many more interesting and diverse things in his career, that made for a more interesting story. Darrell wasn’t flamboyant, wasn’t highly educated, and didn’t seem to have a ton of interests outside of living the rock and roll lifestyle of strippers, parties, and rocking out. There is nothing wrong with that but to read about it, it didn’t hold my full interest to read yet another drinking story about Darrell and his friends.
Crain does the life-story of Darrell justice, and while highly laudatory he does not gloss over the problems and low times as well. The author avoids the trap of glamorizing the murder of Darrell but does go into considerable detail, perhaps even more than was necessary, but fans want to know the true story. I had the pleasure of meeting Darrell backstage once. By all accounts he was always extremely generous and giving, almost to a fault, and I can attest to that fact personally. Based on my limited and brief experience, Darrell’s personality was captured in Black Tooth Grin making it a worthwhile read for fans of the band and the man.