Allman Brothers Co-Founder Member Dickey Betts Passed Away At 80

Allman Brothers Co-Founder Member Dickey Betts Passed Away At 80 | I Love Classic Rock Videos

via 13WMAZ / Youtube

The music world is grappling with the loss of a legend. Dickey Betts, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, passed away on Thursday morning at his home in Osprey, Florida. He was 80 years old.

Betts was a cornerstone of the band, wielding both a powerful voice and a searing guitar that helped define Southern rock. His songwriting, often infused with country influences,  became synonymous with the Allman Brothers’ sound.

Dickey Betts’ impact transcended the Allman Brothers Band. His innovative guitar playing, often trading licks with the equally legendary Duane Allman, became a blueprint for the genre. His songwriting contributions, including the iconic “Ramblin’ Man”, cemented the band’s place in rock and roll history.

News of his passing has sparked an outpouring of tributes from fans and fellow musicians alike, a testament to his enduring legacy.

Dickey Betts’ Family Announces Passing

Dickey Betts’ family shared the news of his passing on Thursday. In a statement posted via Instagram, they wrote of their profound sadness and announced “the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts at the age of 80 years old”.

The Betts family statement described Dickey as a “legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader, and family patriarch”. The rock icon was surrounded by loved ones when he passed away peacefully.

The statement also acknowledged Betts’ immense impact, noting that “Dickey was larger-than-life, and his loss will be felt worldwide”. The Betts family requested privacy as they grieve. They also promised to share more information in the coming days.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dickey Betts (@dickeybettsofficial)

Beyond the Shadow of the Allmans

While the Allman Brothers Band is often associated with the Allman brothers themselves, Gregg and Duane, Dickey Betts was a crucial force behind the group’s success. His guitar work added unique textures to their sound. Betts’ style, characterized by sweet melodies and a sinuous quality, wove elements of Western swing and jazz into the band’s music, especially when he dueled with Duane.

His influence wasn’t limited to guitar – Betts was also a talented vocalist and songwriter. Apart from penning “Ramblin’ Man”, he also contributed several of their most recognizable songs, including the haunting instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, the joyful “Jessica”, and the late-career hit “Crazy Love”.

Dickey’s image was as iconic as his music. His signature mustache and tough-guy persona were so ingrained in rock history that they inspired the character of Russell, played by Billy Crudup, in Cameron Crowe’s movie Almost Famous.

Betts himself found humor in the tribute, telling Rolling Stone that his initial reaction was, “Goddamn, that guy looks like me!”  While he wasn’t known for jumping off roofs or embodying the “golden god” persona, Betts acknowledged his connection to Crowe.

From The Jokers to The Allman Brothers Band

Betts’ musical journey started in the mid-60s with The Jokers, a Midwestern band. A member recognized his talent and recruited him for tours outside his home state. Back in Florida later in the decade, Betts formed The Second Coming with bassist Berry Oakley.

Fate intervened when they met and jammed with Duane Allman, who was forming the Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Though there were initial disagreements, Betts and Oakley saw the band’s potential and even convinced Duane to include his brother Gregg. Betts quickly made his mark as a songwriter with “Revival” on their 1969 debut album.

He and Duane revolutionized rock guitar with their two-guitar duels, evident in the epic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”. Before Duane’s death, the band recorded Betts’ “Blue Sky”, a country-influenced song inspired by his first wife, which became a signature Allman Brothers Band tune.

Stepping Up and Stepping Out

After Duane Allman’s death, Betts became the Allman Brothers’ lead guitarist. Though uncomfortable at times, he thrived. Their 1973 album Brothers and Sisters featured his songwriting with hits like “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica”, achieving mainstream success.

Betts explored his musical range with his 1974 solo album Highway Call, considered a standout among Allman Brothers offshoot projects. It blended country, jazz, bluegrass, and gospel influences.

Betts’ Southern rock connection even reached the White House. The Allmans supported Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign, and Betts himself met President Carter at a 1978 jazz concert. Despite forgetting his ID, security recognized him. He later bumped into the President, who praised him as “one of the best songwriters around nowadays”. This unexpected compliment stayed with Betts.

A Bittersweet Farewell

Despite a tumultuous split that left him disillusioned for years, Dickey eventually reflected fondly on his time with the Allman Brothers Band. Looking back, he said, “I would’ve done something… I was very pragmatic and industrious.” 

While conceding he likely would have found success elsewhere, he acknowledged the unique magic of the band. “But it wouldn’t have been as nice as what happened when I met up with that bunch of guys.”

The 2000s proved challenging for Betts. He attempted to re-launch his solo career, but the Allman Brothers Band, now featuring guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, continued to overshadow him. By 2014, he made a quiet retirement announcement. In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, he confirmed his decision to step away from recording music.

A Final Chapter

The Allman Brothers Band might have ended on a sour note for Betts, but a positive connection remained. He and Gregg Allman reportedly spoke before Gregg’s death in 2017.

Betts initially announced retirement, but in 2018, he was persuaded to return to touring with his band, this time joined by his son and fellow guitarist, Duane. Unfortunately, Betts suffered a mild stroke that same year, though he thankfully recovered.

Last December, Betts even attended an 80th birthday concert thrown in his honor by the Allman Betts Family Revival band, held near his longtime Florida home. There was a sense of community and celebration surrounding him despite the band’s earlier conflicts.