Before Dimebag Darrell passed away in 2004 he placed an order for a new Dean Custom Razorback – a guitar that, sadly, he never got to play. Now YouTube channel Essex Recordings Studios and guitarist Nik Sampson have teamed up to put the instrument, dubbed ‘The Clubhouse’, through its paces.
The all-black electric guitar is adorned with a green Pantera ‘Clubhouse’ logo and reportedly sat on the wall of the band’s own ‘gentlemen’s club’ of the same name (the early-’00s were not rock’s most enlightened era) for many years. The Southend, UK-based Essex Recording Studios later incorporated it into their own collection following Vinnie Paul’s passing in 2018.
As host, Essex-owner Keith Gannon explains, this particular Dean Dime Razorback Stealth USA Custom Shop guitar came at a time of crossover for Darrell. The Pantera man was reportedly still under contract with Washburn at the time (who had permission to build Dimebag models until March 2005), but Dimebag had nonetheless started to work with Dean on new designs.
“This particular guitar is, as far as I’m aware, the only Razorback Stealth USA guitar ever made,” says Gannon.
“They did do some Korean import models with the silver bevels and EMG pickups. But [they were] totally different headstock design, different truss rod cover, different build quality, slightly different on the shape. [So] again there was only one ever USA custom shop one built and it was for Dime, ordered by Dime and delivered to his brother Vinnie a couple weeks after he passed.”
Built in January 2005, there’s a Seymour Duncan signature Dimebucker pickup at the bridge, a Floyd Rose vibrato system, a V-shape neck profile, control knobs with indentations for better grip and a razor blade inlay at the 12th fret. The body, notes Sampson, is “frickin’ huge” yet “surprisingly thin” and it’s still got its first set of 17-year old strings.
“This is definitely a guitar that you have to wear a yellow safety vest… a hard hat and a clipboard when you're walking around a venue with this thing,” jokes Gannon. “You're gonna whack into everything; there's just huge points coming off in every direction – you'll definitely poke someone's eye out.”
Sampson then finally lets rip with a series of Dimebag influenced riffs and lead lines, but is somewhat inhibited by the instrument’s ancient strings, which are in pretty shocking condition following years on the wall. Still, it’s a fascinating insight into Dimebag’s world, and we await the follow-up clip – once it’s had a tune-up – with bated breath.
Essex owner Gannon has form with iconic metal instruments – he once bought all the guitars in Dave Mustaine's Reverb shop, before selling them again a year later.
Even 18 years on from his death, Dimebag Darrell’s legacy continues to play out in the next generation of players, as evidenced by Polyphia covering Pantera tune Domination at their August 20 show, on what would have been Dimebag’s 56th birthday.