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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Singer and guitarist Dickey Betts dead at 80

Osprey, Florida, USA (April 18, 2024)- Dickey Betts, singer and guitarist with the famous Georgia-based Allman Brothers Band has died, according to a statement from his family. Betts had been battling cancer for more than a year and had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, David Spero, Betts’ manager of 20 years, said.

The American rock band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, but shortly after moved to Macon, Georgia and established Capricorn Records. 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 ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined the blues, country, R&B and jazz with ‘60s rock.

The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2012. 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. Forrest Richard Betts was born Dec. 12, 1943, and was raised in the Bradenton, Florida, area, near the highway 41 he sang about in “Ramblin’ Man.”

His family had lived in 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 girls. At 16 he left home for his first road trip, joining the circus to play in a band. He returned home, and with bassist Oakley joined a group that became the Jacksonville, Florida-based band Second Coming. One night in 1969 Betts and Oakley jammed with Duane Allman, already a successful session musician, and his younger brother, and together they formed the Allman Brothers Band.

The group moved to Macon, Georgia, and released a self-titled debut album in 1969. A year later came the album “Idlewild South,” highlighted by Betts’ instrumental composition “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which soon became a concert staple. The 1971 double album “At Fillmore East,” now considered among the greatest live albums of the classic rock era, was the Allmans’ commercial breakthrough and cemented their performing reputation by showcasing the unique guitar interplay between Allman and Betts.

Their styles contrasted, with Allman playing bluesy slide guitar, while Betts’ solos and singing tugged the band toward country. When layered in harmony, their playing was especially distinctive. 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. After leaving the Allmans for good, Betts continued to play with his own group and lived in the Bradenton area with his wife, Donna. Funeral arrangements are pending.