Dickey Betts Dead At 80

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Dickey Betts Dead At 80

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Forrest Richard “Dickey” Betts — guitarist, singer-songwriter, and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band — has died. His Instagram account shared the following message:

It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announce the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) at the age of 80 years old. The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch passed away earlier today at his home in Osprey, FL., surrounded by his family. Dickey was larger than life, and his loss will be felt world-wide. At this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and respect for their privacy in the coming days. More information will be forthcoming at the appropriate time.

The official Allman Brothers Band account also shared a statement:

With deep sadness the Allman Brothers Band learned today that founding member Dickey Betts has passed away peacefully in his home in Sarasota, Florida, following a period of declining health.

Dickey wrote quintessential Brothers songs including “Blue Sky,” “Rambling Man,” “Jessica,” “in Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and many others. His extraordinary guitar playing alongside guitarist Duane Allman created a unique dual guitar signature sound that became the signature sound of the genre known as Southern Rock.

He was passionate in life, be it music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing. Dickey was all in on and excelled at anything that caught his attention.

Betts joins his brothers, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman, as well as ABB crew members Twiggs Lyndon, Joe Dan Petty, Red Dog, Kim Payne and Mike Callahan in that old Winnebago in the sky touring the world taking their music to all who will listen.

Our condolences to his immediate family, Donna, Duane & Lisa, Christy & Frank, Jessica, and Kim.

Play on Brother Dickey, you will be forever remembered and deeply missed.

Allman Brothers Band, Family, and Crew

Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1943 and raised in Bradenton. As a child, he learned a number of stringed instruments including ukulele, mandolin, banjo, and eventually guitar, the instrument that would make him famous. As a teenager, he began playing with various rock bands in Florida and throughout the Eastern US, including one band called the Jokers referenced in the Rick Derringer-penned “Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo.”

In 1969, while based in Jacksonville, Betts formed the Allman Brothers Band with brothers Duane and Gregg Allman plus Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson. The band quickly became one of the standard-bearers for Southern rock, in no small part thanks to Betts and Duane Allman’s harmonizing, crisscrossing lead guitar work. After Duane’s death in 1971, Betts took full control of lead guitar duties in the band. He wrote and sang lead on the Allmans’ 1973 smash “Ramblin’ Man,” a #2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as “Jessica,” named for his infant daughter.

Betts began releasing solo material even before the Allman Brothers disbanded, starting with 1974’s Highway Call. Following the Allmans’ breakup in 1976, Betts released 1977’s Dickey Betts & Great Southern — which featured “Bougainvillea,” a collaboration with future Miami Vice star Don Johnson — and 1978’s Atlanta’s Burning Down. Betts continued playing with overlapping combos for years going forward. Various members of Great Southern stepped in for an Allman Brothers reunion in 1979; then, when the Allmans broke up again, Betts briefly formed Betts, Hall, Leavell, And Trucks with Allmans members plus Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie.

Another solo album, Pattern Disruptive, followed in 1989, just as the Allman Brothers reformed yet again, this time with future Gov’t Mule leader Warren Haynes on second lead guitar. Betts continued to play with the Allmans for most of the ’90s, but he eventually left the band for undisclosed personal reasons. After playing his final show with the Allman Brothers in 2000, he continued touring and recording with the Dickey Betts Band, later renamed Dickey Betts & Great Southern. He goes down in history as one of the architects of Southern rock and one of the greatest guitarists in roots rock history.

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