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Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band Singer/Guitarist, Dies at 80

Musician wrote some of the Southern rock legends' most enduring songs, including 'Ramblin' Man' and 'Blue Sky'

Allman Brothers Band guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Dickey Betts died this morning (April 18) at the age of 80 after suffering from cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Per a statement, “the legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch was at his home in Osprey, Fla., surrounded by his family. Dickey was larger-than-life, and his loss will be felt worldwide.”

Starting in 1969, the mustachioed Betts flanked brothers Gregg and Duane Allman in the Allman Brothers Band, who overcame Duane’s death in a 1971 motorcycle accident to become one of the most legendary Southern rock acts of all time. Betts wrote and sing the Allmans’ biggest hit, 1973’s “Ramblin’ Man,” as well as favorites such as “Blue Sky,” “Jessica” and the beloved instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”

The Allmans’ iconic 1971 live album At Fillmore East, taped just seven months before Duane’s death, is perhaps the best showcase for Betts’ and Duane’s six-string synergy. Opening with a scorching version of “Statesboro Blues,” the seven-song double LP offered a snapshot into what could have been. Extended versions of “You Don’t Love Me” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” showcased the group’s jaw-dropping musicianship, while the roaring 23-minute take on“Whipping Post” essentially helped coin the phrase “jam band.”

After a long hiatus in the 1980s, the Allmans reunited and enjoyed a new round of success amid the rise of American jam band culture. In this era, Betts served as the group’s de facto co-leader alongside Gregg, whose struggles with substance abuse endured into the ’90s. Betts himself was no stranger to run-ins with the law, and his volatility led to him leaving the band for good in 2000.

While the Allmans continued without him for another 14 years, Betts played throughout the 2000s with his own Dickey Betts Band, which featured his son Duane on guitar, but essentially retired in 2014. Following Gregg’s death in 2017, Betts went back on the road for another year. In honor of his 80th birthday, he was in attendance last December for a Florida concert by the Allman Betts Band, which features Duane Betts, Greg’s son Devon and Berry Duane Oakley, the son of late Allmans bassist Berry Oakley.

“He was passionate in life, be it music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing,” reads a statement attributed to the Allman Brothers Band, family and crew. “Dickey was all in on and excelled at anything that caught his attention. Play on Brother Dickey. You will be forever remembered and deeply missed.”