Allman Brothers co-founder and guitarist Dickey Betts dies at 80

“Dickey was larger than life, and his loss will be felt world-wide.”

Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band

Image: Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

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Dickey Betts, legendary guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, has died at the age of 80.

Betts’ death was confirmed by his family via an announcement on his Instagram page: “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.”

A trailblazing figure in Southern rock music, Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band. Together, the group pioneered a unique sound that blended blues, rock, jazz, and country, setting the stage for a new era in American music.

Following Duane Allman’s tragic passing in 1971, Betts took on a more prominent role in the band as songwriter and lead guitarist. His masterful guitar work, characterised by an emphasis on melodies and intricate solos, became a defining element of the Allman Brothers Band’s sound. The rocker was also responsible for some of the band’s most beloved songs like Jessica, Blue Sky, as well as their biggest hit, Ramblin’ Man.

Betts’ journey as a member of the Allman Brothers Band would prove to be tumultuous. The group experienced at least two breakups, with Betts making a permanent exit from the band in 2000 due to alleged conflicts surrounding his continued substance abuse.

Beyond his work with Allmans, Betts pursued a successful solo career with his own band Great Southern, whose lineup included his son, guitarist Duane Betts. His final album release was Dickey Betts & Great Southern Official Bootleg Vol. 1 in 2021, a two-CD live album of performances from the noughties.

In 2014, Betts quietly announced his retirement, only to return to touring in 2017 after he got “bored as hell sitting around” [via Billboard].

“He was passionate in life, be it music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing,” the Allman Brothers Band wrote in a statement remembering Betts. “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.”

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