Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band dies at 80

Dickey Betts, the Allman Brothers Band singer, songwriter and guitarist whose piercing solos, beloved songs and hellish spirit defined the group and Southern rock in general, died Thursday morning at the age of 80 years old. The cause was cancer and chronic illness. obstructive pulmonary disease, Betts manager David Spero confirmed to rolling stone.

“It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announces the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) at the age of 80,” the Betts family announced in a press release. declaration to rolling stone. “The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch was at home in Osprey, Florida, surrounded by his family. Dickey was larger than life and his loss will be felt around the world. During this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and privacy in the coming days. More information will be available in due course.

“His extraordinary guitar playing alongside guitarist Duane Allman created a unique dual-guitar sound that became the signature sound of the genre known as Southern Rock,” the band wrote in a statement. “He had a passion for life, whether it was music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing. Dickey was all in and excelled at whatever caught his eye.

Although he was often overshadowed by Gregg and Duane, the brothers for whom the Allmans were named, Betts was just as vital to the group. His gently sinuous guitar style introduced elements of western swing and jazz into the band’s music, particularly when duetting with Duane. As a singer and writer, Betts was responsible for the group’s biggest hit, 1973’s “Ramblin’ Man,” as well as some of their most recognizable songs: the brooding instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” , the jubilant “Jessica” and their late-period comeback hit “Crazy Love.”

From his signature mustache to his badass attitude, Betts was so iconic that he inspired the character Russell (played by Billy Crudup) in Cameron Crowe’s film. Almost known. “Damn, this guy looks like me!” » Paris says rolling stone of his first reaction to the film. “I didn’t jump off the roof or the ‘golden god’, but I knew Cameron.”

Born Forrest Richard Betts in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 12, 1943, Betts began playing the ukulele around the age of five, followed by the banjo and mandolin. “When I finally got to seventh grade,” he said. RS, “I discovered girls, rock & roll and Chuck Berry.” As a teenager, he started his own band while earning a living as a house painter and postman.

In the mid-’60s, a member of a Midwestern band named The Jokers heard Betts and recruited him for out-of-state tours. Returning home to Florida later in the decade, Betts formed The Second Coming, a band that also included bassist Berry Oakley. The two ended up meeting and playing with Duane Allman, who asked them both to join the new Allman Brothers Band in 1969. “It took a lot of talking and getting along,” Betts said. rolling stone in 2017, “but we all knew it was something we had been hearing in our heads for a long time. We had to convince Duane to call Gregg because they were having a brotherly argument and Duane didn’t want Gregg. Oakley and I said, “Come on, Duane, the band is too powerful. We need Gregg’s voice in this.’”

Although his initial role in the band was as co-lead guitarist with Duane, Betts made his mark as a writer with his exuberant “Revival” on the group’s debut album, 1969. The Allman Brothers Group. During the band’s early years, he and Duane took rock guitar improvisation and two-guitar dueling to new heights, as heard in the 13-minute version of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” on the group’s album. In Fillmore East live album from 1971. Just before Duane Allman’s death, the band recorded Betts’ “Blue Sky,” a country-inflected gallop inspired by his first wife, who was Native American; the song that became one of the group’s signature songs.

After Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, Betts became the band’s de facto guitarist and frontman, a role with which he was not always comfortable. Featuring “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica” – the latter named after Betts’ daughter – the group’s 1973 album, Siblings, an album that shifted to pop. Betts’ 1974 solo album, Road call – one of Allmans’ best spin-off projects – incorporated country, jazz, bluegrass and gospel.

The Allmans’ connection to Jimmy Carter, whose 1976 presidential campaign they supported through benefit concerts, also applied to Betts personally. “I remember going to a jazz concert at the White House (1978),” Betts said. rolling stone Last year. “Of course I showed up and left my damn ID at home. But the Marines said, “Oh, go ahead.” They knew me very well and knew I wasn’t going to do any harm. Jimmy was walking around the premises and someone said to me, “Go talk to him,” but I didn’t want to disturb him. Then I went to use the men’s room at the White House and as I was coming out I passed Jimmy with a group of people and he said to me, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dickey Betts, one of the best songwriters of the moment.’ It just floored me.

But after Gregg testified in a drug trial involving a group employee, which infuriated Betts, the Allman Brothers group collapsed for the first time. Betts recorded two albums with his own band, Great Southern, which did not replicate Allmans’ success. In 1979, the Allman Brothers regrouped, disbanded again a few years later, and reunited again in 1989.

In the ’90s, the Allmans experienced a musical and professional renaissance, and Betts became the driving force, especially after Gregg’s mid-decade relapse. But Betts could also be moody and unstable; in 1976 he was arrested for drinking and clashing with police. This side of him took over; in 1993, he was arrested in Saratoga Springs, New York, after fighting with cops, and his drinking led to fights with band members and missed concerts. In 2000, he separated from the Allmans. Betts always insisted he was fired, while drummer John Lee “Jaimoe” Johnson said rolling stone in 2017, Betts resigned. “Dickey was always a guy who was – I don’t want to say troubled, but he was kind of a loner,” Allmans manager Bert Holman said. RS in 2017. “More separated than the rest of the guys.”

Although his falling out with the Allmans left a bitter taste in his mouth for years, Betts said RS that in the end, he fondly remembers the decades spent with them. “I would have done something,” he said. “I would have worked for someone in landscaping. I was very pragmatic and hardworking. But it wouldn’t have been as nice as what happened when I met this group of guys.

For much of the 2000s, Betts attempted to revive his own career and music, although he was again overshadowed by the Allman Brothers Band, which continued without him (along with guitarist Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks). In 2014, Betts quietly announced his retirement and said rolling stone in 2017, he decided to stop recording music.


Despite the turmoil within the Allman Brothers Band, Betts said he and Gregg spoke just before Allman’s death in 2017. After Allman’s death — and after Betts spoke about his retirement — he was convinced to get back on the road in 2018, with his own son. (also named Duane) joins his group. However, in August of that year, Betts suffered and then recovered from a mild stroke. Last December, Betts attended an 80th birthday concert in his honor by the Allman Betts Family Revival band, near Betts’ longtime home in Florida.

In 2017, Betts looked back on his life with no regrets, recounting rolling stone: “I’ve had a good life and I have nothing to complain about,” he says. “If I could do it again, I don’t know what I could do to make things different. There are trials that I probably could have handled better. But then what? You have to go out there, fight and do the best you can with your time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *