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

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

Dickey Betts, a guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, has died, according to a family statement shared with CNN on Thursday by his former manager.

Betts is 80.

“It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that the Betts family announces the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts,” the statement said. “The legendary entertainer, songwriter, bandleader and family man 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 around the world. At this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and respect for their privacy in the days ahead. More information will be released in due course.”

Betts’ manager David Spero told Rolling Stone that the guitarist had cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Hailing from West Palm Beach, Florida, Betts’ early musical influences included bluegrass, country music and later rock and roll. Credited with helping define the Southern rock sound and genre of the ’60s and ’70s, Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, drummer Butch Trucks and Jaimoe joined brothers Gregg and Duane Allman to form the Allman Brothers Band in 1969.

Betts wrote and sang on the band’s biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.” At first, he wrote the song and intended it to be sung by another artist entirely.

“I’m going to send ‘Ramblin’ Man’ to Johnny Cash,” Betts said in 2020, later adding that he “thinks it’s a great song for him.”

“But everyone loved the song. Even my dad liked the song, before we recorded it or anything. And I thought I’d send this to Johnny Cash and see if he wanted to do it,” he continued. “The producer (Johnny Sandlin) said we needed another song for the record and asked if I had anything. I said, ‘Okay, I got one but I’ll send it to Nashville to be recorded.” He said, ‘Let’s hear it.’

Other big Allman Brothers songs written by Betts are “Blue Sky” and “Jessica.”

Tragedy struck the group when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971 and Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident a year later. Betts and Gregg Allman became the group’s leaders, but creative differences and substance abuse within the group caused them to split up and reform several times.

In 1973, 16-year-old Cameron Crowe followed the Allman Brothers Band as they toured for a Rolling Stone cover story, which would eventually provide the inspiration for Crowe’s 2000 Oscar-winning film, “Almost Famous.” In 2017, Crowe said his portrayal of rock star Billy Crudup was an “homage” to Betts.

In an email sent to CNN later Friday, Crowe called Betts “a guitarist for the ages, the musical glue that held The Allman Brothers Band together for so many years.”

“Dickey’s quiet warmth, and his timeless contribution to American music was a huge inspiration for our film,” the filmmakers added.

Betts left the Allman Brothers Band in a highly publicized split in 2000. While the band continued to tour for nearly 15 more years and released one additional studio album, Betts toured with his band Great Southern, featuring his son Duane, and released another studio album. album of new material. Betts retired in 2014.

Also on Friday, the Allman Brothers Band released an official statement, writing that “Betts’ extraordinary guitar playing with guitarist Duane Allman created a unique dual-guitar signature sound that has become the signature sound of the genre known as Southern Rock.”

“He was very passionate about life, whether it was music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing,” the statement continued. “Dickey was always enthusiastic and excelled in whatever caught his eye.”

When asked what he loves most about music, Betts told the Sarasota Herald Tribune in 2020 that it was primarily the effect it had on his audience.

“I love people especially, and what music does for them,” he said. “They get more out of the music than I do. … I really get a kick out of the audience and how they can drift into another world at a concert.”

CNN’s Phil Gast contributed to this story.

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