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Dickey Betts, co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band and legendary guitarist, dies at 80

Guitar legend Dickey Betts, co-founder of Allman Brothers Group and who wrote their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” has died. He was 80 years old.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Fla., David Spero, Betts’ manager for 20 years, confirmed. Betts had been battling cancer for more than a year and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Spero said.

“He was surrounded by his whole family and he passed away peacefully. They didn’t think he was in pain,” Spero said by phone.

Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre: southern rock. Bands ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined blues, country, R&B and jazz with ’60s rock.

Dickey Betts, member of the Allman Brothers group.

Jason Vorhees/AP


Founded in 1969, the Allmans were a pioneering jam group, trampling on the traditional notion of three-minute pop songs by performing lengthy compositions in concert and on record. The group was also notable as a biracial group from the Deep South.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and founding member Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident a year later. This left Betts and Allman’s younger brother Gregg as leader of the group, but they frequently clashed and drug abuse caused further dysfunction. The group broke up at least twice before reforming and has had more than a dozen lineups.

The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Betts left the group for good in 2000 and has also performed solo and with his own band Great Southern, which included his son, guitarist Duane Betts.

Forrest Richard Betts was born on December 12, 1943 and grew up in the Bradenton, Florida area near Highway 41 which he sang about in “Ramblin’ Man.” His family had lived in the area since the mid-19th century.

Betts grew up listening to country, bluegrass and western swing, and played the ukulele and banjo before focusing on the electric guitar because it impressed the girls. At 16, he left home for his first road trip and joined the circus to play in a band.

He returned home and, with bassist Oakley, joined a band that became the Jacksonville, Florida-based band Second Coming. One evening in 1969, Betts and Oakley played with Duane Allman, already a successful session musician, and his younger brother, and together they formed the Allman Brothers Band.

The group settled in Macon, Georgia, and released a self-titled debut album in 1969. A year later, the album “Idlewild South” was released, highlighted by Betts’ instrumental composition “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” , which is quickly becoming a concert staple. .

The 1971 double album “At Fillmore East”, now considered one of the greatest live albums of the classic rock era, was the Allmans’ commercial breakthrough and cemented their reputation as a performer by showcasing interplay unique guitar between Allman and Betts. Their styles contrasted, with Allman playing bluesy slide guitar, while Betts’ solos and vocals pulled the group toward country. When layered in harmony, their playing was particularly distinctive.

The band also had two drummers: “Jaimoe” Johanson, who is black, and Butch Trucks.

Duane Allman died four days after “Fillmore” was certified gold, but the band continued and the crowds continued to grow. The 1973 album “Brothers and Sisters” reached No. 1 on the charts and featured “Ramblin’ Man,” with Betts singing lead and bringing spice to the Top 40. The song reached No. 2 singles charts and was retained. from first place by “Half Breed” by Cher, who later married Gregg Allman.

Betts’ soaring guitar sound on “Ramblin’ Man” resonated in neighborhood bars across the country for decades, and the song highlighted his talent for melodic hooks. “Ramblin’ Man” was the Allmans’ only Top Ten hit, but Betts’ catchy 7 1/2-minute instrumental composition “Jessica,” recorded in 1972, became an FM radio staple.

Betts also wrote or co-wrote some of the group’s other best-loved songs, including “Blue Sky” and “Southbound.” Over the next few years, the band remained a successful touring band with Betts and Warren Haynes on guitar. Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks died in 2017.

After leaving the Allmans for good, Betts continued to perform with his own band and lived in the Bradenton area with his wife, Donna.

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