Dickey Betts, Co-Founding Guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band, Dies at 80

Dickey Betts Allman Brothers Band

His last live performance was at the Peach Music Festival in Pennsylvania back in 2018

Dickey Betts [Sarasota Herald-Tribute/Archive]

Dickey Betts, guitarist and co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, has died. The news was confirmed by Betts’ longtime manager, David Spero, through a family statement, which was shared on Betts’ official social media. Betts had been battling cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 80-years old.

“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, Florida, 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.”

Betts’ last live performance was at The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pennsylvania back in 2018.

The camp of The Allman Brothers Band also released 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.”

Born as Forrest Richard Betts on December 12, 1943, in West Palm Beach, Florida, he grew up in a musically inclined family and began playing guitar at an early age.

Betts joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, which quickly rose to prominence as a key figure in the development of Southern rock. He was instrumental in creating the band’s distinctive sound, characterized by its blend of rock, blues, country, and jazz influences. Betts is particularly noted for his melodic, country-inflected guitar playing and his role in composing some of the band’s most iconic songs, including “Ramblin’ Man” and “Blue Sky.”

His guitar work and songwriting featured prominently on the band’s albums throughout the 1970s. Betts’s instrumental track “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” showcased his prowess and creativity as a guitarist and became a staple of the band’s live performances.

 Dickey Betts [Dave Allocca/StarPix/Rex/Shutterstock]

Despite his success with the Allman Brothers Band, Betts faced personal and professional challenges, including tensions within the band that led to his departure in 2000. Following his exit from the Allman Brothers, Betts continued his music career with the Dickey Betts Band and later with Great Southern, focusing on his blend of rock and country music.

Throughout his career, Betts has been recognized for his contributions to music, including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Allman Brothers Band in 1995. His influence on guitar playing and the Southern rock genre remains significant, celebrated for his unique style and musical legacy.

The Allman Brothers Band are one of the greatest musical acts of all time. Formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969, the band was founded by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman, who brought their strong musical aspirations together to create a unique blend of rock, blues, jazz, and country music. Their innovative sound was characterized by extended improvisational jams, dual lead guitar work, and soulful vocals, setting them apart in the rock music scene.

Their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, was released in 1969, but it was their live album At Fillmore East (1971) that truly cemented their reputation. This album is often considered one of the best live recordings in rock history, showcasing the band’s exceptional musical prowess. Tragically, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident later that year, a devastating blow that was followed by the death of bassist Berry Oakley in a similar accident a year later.

Despite these tragedies, the band continued to make music and achieved significant commercial success in the 1970s with albums like Brothers and Sisters (1973), which featured hits such as “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica.” The band’s lineup changed frequently over the years, with Gregg Allman and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson as the constants.

The Allman Brothers Band was known for their contribution to the development of the Southern rock genre and their influence on many artists that followed. They were awarded numerous accolades, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Their legacy continues to be celebrated by fans and musicians alike, long after the band officially retired in 2014.

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