Friday, June 22, 2018, one of heavy metal’s most iconic and renowned drummers of all time, Vinnie Paul Abbott, passed away at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 54. Pantera have paid a touching tribute to him on their website. Here are excerpts from that text written by Nick “Hitchcock” Bowcott.
“Drummers often invariably get the short end of the stick as do bassists. because the vocalist and lead guitarist get the spotlight. In truth though — drums and bass are quite literally the foundation of any great band or song as they can make or break a riff or passage. That’s why rock drummers such as John Bonham, Keith Moon, Neil Peart, Bill Ward, Mitch Mitchell, Charlie Watts, and Alex Van Halen are rightfully considered legends. They didn’t just keep time and create a beat — they literally drove songs to new levels of intensity, light, shade, and groove. Vinnie Abbott was (damn — the use of the past tense here is heart-wrenching) such a drummer and a high-ranking, much respected member of the aforementioned elite few.
My first brush with Pantera was in 1985 on Grim Reaper’s Fear No Evil tour during the Terry Glaze era when they opened for us in Texas. I was blown away by their performance. Then, in 1987, on the Hell on Wheels tour, I stage dived and landed on this pretty intimidating but amiable dude…his name was Philip H. Anselmo, and we enjoyed a post-show herbal cigarette. Then, I spent a lot of time with Dime and the band. This also continued with Dime and Vinnie when Pantera fragmented and the criminally overlooked Damageplan project was born. During that entire period, though, while I knew Vinnie, we didn’t really talk that much — apart from the usual, “Hey, nice to see you again” type stuff.
Then came one of metal’s darkest days: Wednesday, December 8, 2004….
Prior to flying to Darrell’s funeral and public memorial service, I called Vinnie to express my profound sorrow and condolences. As expected, given the heartwrenching circumstances, the phone wasn’t answered by him, so I simply asked if my best wishes and love could be passed on. As soon as I said my name, though, I was told: “Vince was hoping you were going to call; he’d really like to talk to you.” It was in the lengthy, tear-inducing but beautifully moving conversation that followed where our relationship went from acquaintances to true friends.
Since forming, Hellyeah has toured extensively and released five critically-acclaimed and fan-loved albums. Alongside Vinnie – Chad Gray (vocals) and Tom Maxwell (guitar) have been at the core of the band since day one. Hellyeah – completed by Kyle Sanders (bass) and Christian Brady (guitar) – was working on album No. 6 when this tragedy occurred.
Vinnie’s remarkable drumming talent is well known; what is maybe less well known is this: behind his larger-than-life onstage presence and muscular (he hit those freaking skins hard) yet musical drumming was a kind, gentle, generous,
and funny guy with an infectious smile and a heart the size of Texas.
Vinnie’s kindness and generosity helped make a difference for many. Since he was as humble as he was thoughtful, though, he never made a big deal about such amazing acts…to him, helping others was just “the right thing to do.”
But 54 is young, way too freaking young…if there is any collateral beauty in this soul-crushing, tear-stained loss, it is this…
After nearly 14 years apart: Vinnie and Dime are finally together again in an even better place. Their last words to each other on this planet were “Van Halen” (their code for having a kickass show). I know they’re in God’s Tavern (© Zakk Wylde) right now, clinking their glasses while exclaiming “Van Halen” in unison and both sporting THOSE grins.
To close — my thoughts, prayers, best wishes, and broken heart are with Vinnie’s family, bandmates & friends…and especially Jerry “The Eld’n” Abbott.
Vinnie — thank you for the music, the many indelible memories, and your Gentle Spirit. Big Luv, my dear friend…Big Luv, always.
REST IN PEACE & please say “hey” to Dukebox Damage, for me.
– Nick “Hitchcock” Bowcott”.