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19 April 2024

Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band Co-Founder Dies, Aged 80

Dickey Betts Allman Brothers Band Dies 80
Photo: Media Punch Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
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Dickey Betts, the guitarist and songwriter who co-founded the Allman Brothers Band and wrote their biggest hit, Ramblin’ Man, has died. He was 80.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Florida, David Spero, Betts’ manager of 20 years, confirmed. Betts had been diagnosed with cancer and had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “He was surrounded by his whole family and he passed peacefully. They didn’t think he was in any pain,” Spero said in an official statement.

Dickey 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. Acts including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Phish and Jason Isbell – among many others – were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined the blues, country, R&B and jazz with 60s rock.

Founded in 1969, the Allmans challenged the accepted idea of three-minute pop songs by performing lengthy compositions in concert and on record. The band was also notable as a biracial group from North America’s Deep South. They featured two drummers, one of whom, “Jaimoe” Johanson, is black.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and founding member Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle crash a year later. That left Betts and Allman’s younger brother Gregg as the band’s leaders, but they frequently clashed, and substance abuse caused further dysfunction. The band broke up at least twice before reforming, and has had more than a dozen line-ups.

The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and earned a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2012. Dickey Betts left the group for good in 2000, and also played solo and with his own band Great Southern, which included his son, guitarist Duane Betts.

The group released a self-titled debut album in 1969 which included classic tracks such as Whipping Post and Black Hearted Woman. A year later came the album Idlewild South, highlighted by Betts’ instrumental composition In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, which soon became a concert staple.

Duane Allman died four days after Fillmore was certified as a gold record, but the band carried on and crowds continued to grow. The 1973 album Brothers and Sisters rose to No 1 on the charts and featured the roots-y Ramblin’ Man, with Betts singing the lead. The song reached No 2 on the singles charts and was kept out of the No 1 spot by Half Breed by Cher, who later married Gregg Allman.

The soaring sound of Betts’ guitar on Ramblin’ Man reverberated in neighbourhood bars around the country for decades, and the song underscored his knack for melodic hooks. Ramblin’ Man was the Allmans’ only top 10 hit, but Betts’ catchy seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental composition Jessica, recorded in 1972, became an FM radio staple.

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

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