Dickey Betts, Founding Allman Brothers Guitarist, Dies at 80

Betts was an equal half – along with the late Duane Allman – of the blazing guitar-harmony sound that defined southern rock

Dickey Betts
performs during the Gibson Custom Southern Rock tribute at the 12th And Porter Club on May 19, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dickey Betts, founding member of The Allman Brothers Band who, along with the late Duane Allman, created the searing twin-guitar sound that would elevate southern rock into an enduring mainstream sensation, has died, his family announced Thursday. He was 80.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announce the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts … The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch passed away earlier today at his home in Osprey, Fla., surrounded by his family,” they wrote on Instagram. No cause of death was given.

Betts was among the original members of the band, which formed from a series of jam sessions in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1969. After two largely unsuccessful studio records, the band’s signature sound struck gold with the live album “At Fillmore East,” which showcased the Allmans’ extended jamming led by Betts and Duane’s interlocking, harmonized guitar lines.

After Allman was killed in a 1971 motorcycle accident, the band soldiered on, dedicating their seminal southern-rock record “Eat a Peach” to his memory. The record featured Betts’ “Blue Sky,” one of the band’s most enduring hits; he was also responsible for classic-rock staples “Ramblin’ Man” and the instrumentals on “Jessica” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”

Known to be ornery and defiant, and with a chronic taste for booze, Betts drifted in and out of the Allmans’ lineup in the decades to come. But whether he was in the band or not, his blazing, Gibson Les Paul-powered, dual-guitar sound would remain ever-present onstage and on classic rock radio.

Throughout the decades, multiple tragic deaths of band members, rampant drugs and other excesses, endless lineup changes and constant infighting couldn’t keep the Allmans down – whether Betts was along for the ride or not. Though he played in multiple reunion tours, he wasn’t there for the band’s New York City farewell performances in 2014.

Betts’ infamous feuding with co-founder Gregg Allman was largely to blame for his absence; the two reconciled before Allman’s death in 2017, and Betts attended the funeral. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 as a member of The Allmans.

Betts suffered a mild stroke in 2018, forcing him to cancel upcoming solo tour dates and effectively ending his career as one of the most electrifying live performers to ever strap on a guitar.


One response to “Dickey Betts, Founding Allman Brothers Guitarist, Dies at 80”

  1. Haylie Olson Avatar

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