David Ellefson Dimebag Darrell

In a new interview with Jason Green, bassist David Ellefson looked back on the late PANTERA guitarist Dimebag Darrell auditioning for MEGADETH in 1989.

When asked how Darrell audition came to be, Ellefson responded: “So, in ’88, I was dating this woman and she was from Fort Worth, the Dallas Fort Worth area. So we go down there to hang one summer, and she said, ‘You want to meet the PANTERA guys? We all kind of grew up together.’ So I said, ‘Sure…’ They were playing the next night at a venue, so we got together, Phil Anselmo was pretty new in the band, they had a record called Power Metal [1988], which is still one of my favorite PANTERA records.

“And most people only know him from the next record after that, which is Cowboys From Hell. Onward they know them as this real brutal kind of groovy swamp thrash band; So we get together, we hang, we go out drinking — I was still drinking and partying — and it was a great hang. I certainly knew of them from all the guitar magazines, Darrell was a rising star, for sure.

“And I love that he played a Dean, I always wanted a Dean when I was a kid, a Dean guitar. And I could never get it, so I thought it was cool that he played those,” Ellefson continued. “So we were hanging, at the end of the night he comes up to me, he looks me straight in the eye and he goes, ‘David, the [1986] Peace Sells album changed my life.’ And it was a heartfelt moment.

“I was like, ‘Really?’ That was cool of him. The next night, we went to go see them at the club that they played, and the place was packed. I remember those guys could drink a lot and play really good — we drank that much and we didn’t play as good as those guys did, they must have had good Texas resistance or something, tolerance, they were great.

“They were so good, they were solid, they were tight,” he added. “They invited me up, I played ‘Peace Sells’ with them, and were just great guys. And then fast-forward, let’s say that was June-July or something of ’88, so fast-forward to January of ’89. At this point, [guitarist] Jeff Young is out of MEGADETH, Chuck Behler is still our drummer, we had cut a three-song demo of songs that would go become Rust in Peace.

“We had ‘Holy Wars’ in its entirety done, and then we had the music for ‘Polaris’ and what would become ‘Tornado of Souls,’ but we needed a guitar player.

“So I told Dave [Mustaine] — we’re kicking around ideas; Jeff Waters from ANNIHILATOR was one of them, and then we reached out to Darrell. And Dave called and he goes, ‘Look, huge honor, but with me would come my brother. We’ve got our band, PANTERA.’ And it’s interesting — we didn’t need a drummer, even though we would replace Chuck with Nick [Menza], we didn’t need a drummer at that time. I mean, you can imagine, god, what if Dime and Vinnie [Paul] joined MEGADETH.

“That would have been pretty cool, yet at the same time, there’d be no PANTERA. Think about it — without PANTERA, there’d be no LAMB OF GOD, I mean, PANTERA, they did for the next generation behind us what METALLICA did to our generation. So imagine if that would’ve gone down. Things happen the way they’re supposed to, and Nick joined MEGADETH in the summer of ’89.

“We finished writing the rest of the Rust in Peace record, we even did a demo of it in December ’89 when we hired Chris Poland to come in and play some solos on it. And quite honestly we thought, ‘We don’t have a guitar player, I guess Rust in Peace is gonna be — we’ll do it like we did [1988’s] So Far, So Good… So What! We’ll go in as a three-piece.’

“‘And then we’ll find a guy like Jeff Young, we’ll find a guy to come in and shred some solos and we’ll figure the tour out from there.’ And it’s interesting that when we were in, re-cutting those demos in the EMI Music Publishing studio, our manager Ron‘s office was downstairs — a couple of floors down — me and Dave went down with Ron to his office, and this is late at night, after hours.

“And he had on his desk two Marty Friedman [solo albums] — he had [1988’s] Dragon Kiss, his solo record, and the Cacophony album, and me and Dave were like, ‘Who’s this?’ And Ron was like, ‘Dude, I’ve been telling you guys for months. This guy wants to get an audition, his name is Marty Friedman.’

“And me and Dave were like, ‘Yeah, we know him.’ And so we were like, ‘Alright, might as well…’ Because earlier that summer, we auditioned like a dozen guys, and none of them were at all in the realm. So we just were like, ‘Why not — it can’t hurt, what do we got to lose?’ So we turned the corner into the new year, so, January of 1990 or something, Marty comes down for an audition, and he landed the gig.

“We just happened to go down to the manager’s office — bang — there’s Marty albums in there and had that not happened, again, Marty may not have gotten into MEGADETH. So yeah, life just has a way. The metal gods provide.”