Dickey Betts, Fiery Guitarist With Allman Brothers Band, Dies at 80

Dickey Betts, a honky-tonk hellraiser who, as guitarist in the Allman Brothers Band, traded fiery licks with Duane Allman in the early 1970s, and who went on to write some of the band’s most indelible songs, including his biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” died Thursday at his home in Osprey, Florida. He was 80 years old.

His death was announced on social networks by his family. His manager David Spero said in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine that the cause was cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Although not an actual brother of Allman, the band, founded in 1969, was led by Duane Allman, who achieved guitar god status before dying in a motorcycle accident in 24, and Gregg Allman, the lead singer, who had extra flash. into the spotlight in 1975 when he married Cher — Mr. Betts was a guiding force in the band for decades and a central part of the sound that, along with the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, came to define Southern rock.

Although classified by some fans in the band’s early days as its “other” guitarist, Mr. Betts, whose solos sometimes seemed to burn the fretboard of his Gibson Les Paul, proved a worthy sparring partner for Duane Allman, serving more as a co-lead guitarist than as a sidekick.

With his chiseled features, Wild West mustache and gunfighter attitude, Mr. Betts certainly looked like the star. And he played like one. Nowhere was this more evident than on the band’s landmark 1971 live double album, “At Fillmore East,” which was filled with expansive jams and featured the complex interplay between Mr. Betts and Mr. Allman. It sold over a million copies.

“The second half of ‘At Fillmore East’ is as lively and exhilarating as recorded rock has ever been,” Pitchfork’s Grayson Haver Currin wrote in a 2022 review.

The album’s centerpiece was “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” a haunting, jazz-influenced instrumental written by Mr. Betts whose title was taken from a headstone in a cemetery in the band’s hometown, Macon, Georgia. “, continued Mr. Currin, “sounds like Miles Davis’ new electric bands, the organ and guitar oozing into each other like melting butter and chocolate.”

“Duane and I had an understanding, like sort of an old soul, of playing together,” Mr. Betts said in a 2020 interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida. “Duane would say, ‘Man, I’m so jealous of you sometimes when you’re burning up and I have to follow him,’ and we’d joke about it. So that’s kind of the relationship between Duane and I. It was a real understanding. Duane like, “Come on, this is a hell of a band, let’s not do a hot dog.”

This brilliant guitar dialogue ended in Macon on October 29, 1971, when Mr. Allman lost control of his motorcycle after swerving to miss a truck and died from severe internal injuries suffered in the accident (Berry Oakley, the band’s bassist, was killed a year later in a motorcycle accident a few blocks from the site).

Mr. Betts took over as the group’s effective leader and featured guitarist when the Allman Brothers Band regrouped to complete their next album, “Eat a Peach.” Released in 1972, it received critical acclaim and reached number 4 on the Billboard charts. Among the album’s most memorable tracks was Mr. Betts’ sunny, country-tinged number. “Blue Sky,” which became a rock classic.

The group reached new commercial heights with its follow-up the following year, “Brothers & Sisters,” which contained two of Mr. Betts’ signature songs: “Ramblin’ Man,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the upbeat instrumental “Jessica.”

“Ramblin’ Man,” which Mr. Betts sang like all his signature songs, is a carefree tale of an unfettered life on the road. “I guess the song is more or less autobiographical,” he said in a 1973 interview with future director Cameron Crowe, who was then a writer for Rolling Stone. “Not really, but overall it’s a pretty real song. There are a lot of things I wish I could say in my songs that I can’t.

He apparently made a strong impression on Mr. Crowe. His horseshoe mustache and bad-boy demeanor became the inspiration for Billy Crudup’s rock star character in Mr. Crowe’s quasi-autobiographical 2000 film, “Almost Famous.” As Mr. Crowe told Rolling Stone in 2017: “Dickey seemed like a quiet guy with a huge amount of soul, possible danger and a playful carefreeness behind his eyes. He had a huge presence. »

Forrest Richard Betts was born December 12, 1943, in West Palm Beach, Florida, one of three children of Harold and Sarah Betts. Growing up on the Gulf Coast in Bradenton, near Tampa, He learned to appreciate music early on from his father, a violinist, and began playing the ukulele at age 5.

He graduated with a guitar degree and formed his own band as a teenager. In 1967, he formed another group, The Second Coming, with Mr. Oakley. They eventually found themselves playing with Duane Allman, who invited them to join his new band.

After the triumph of “Brothers & Sisters,” which topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks in 1973, the Allman Brothers Band began to unravel. Gregg Allman began a solo career, as did Mr. Betts, who released an album “Highway Call” in 1974.

Over time, the group’s excessive drug and alcohol use became a growing problem, as did the internal pressures that accompanied success. The group broke up in 1976 after Gregg Allman testified against Gregg Allman’s personal road manager in a federal drug case; Mr. Betts vowed never to work with Mr. Allman again.

Yet he did it. Although Mr. Betts continued with a side business, Dickey Betts & Great Southern, in 1979 the Allman Brothers Band released a comeback album, “Enlightened Rogues,” reviving the two-guitar approach by adding a new guitarist , Dan Toler; the group would continue to tour and record, despite lengthy hiatuses, until 2000. That year, the group fired Mr. Betts, citing “creative differences” – while also hinting at continued struggles with drug addiction, which he denied.

By this point, Mr. Betts had experienced numerous drug and alcohol problems, as well as multiple arrests, including a highly publicized incident in 1996 in which he was accused of pointing a Magnum handgun .44 on his wife, Donna, during an argument over his drug use and charged with aggravated domestic violence. The charges were dropped after he agreed to go to a rehabilitation center.

Besides his wife, Mr. Betts’ survivors include his daughters, country artist Kimberly Betts, Christy Betts and Jessica Betts, and his son, Duane Betts, who made appearances with the Allman Brothers Band in the 1990s and later joined Great Southern.

Although he underwent brain surgery in 2018 after a fall at home, Mr. Betts released live albums with the Dickey Betts Band in 2018 and 2019.

It received notable recognition when Bob Dylan referenced it in “Murder Most Foul,” Mr. Dylan’s 2020 opus about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It contains the phrase “Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz/play ‘Blue Sky,’ play Dickey Betts.” »

When friends called him about the cry, Mr. Betts was deeply honored, he said in a recent interview, but also embarrassed. “I’d say, ‘Well, he just used me because it rhymes with Getz.'”

Gn entert
News Source : www.nytimes.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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