NewsDickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band co-founder and legendary guitarist, dies at 80

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

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Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre — Southern rock.


Dickey Betts, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, exits the funeral of Gregg Allman at Snow’s Memorial Chapel, June 3, 2017, in Macon, Georgia. Jason Vorhees / The Macon Telegraph via AP, File

By STEVEN WINE and RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press

updated on April 18, 2024 | 12:59 PM

Guitar legend Dickey Betts, who co-founded the Allman Brothers Band and wrote their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” has died. He was 80.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Florida, David Spero, Betts’ manager of 20 years, confirmed. Betts had been battling cancer for more than a year and had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Spero said.

“He was surrounded by his whole family and he passed peacefully. They didn’t think he was in any pain,” Spero said by phone. “He’d had cancer for over a year. And he’s gone.”

Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre — Southern rock. Acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined the blues, country, R&B and jazz with ‘60s rock.

Founded in 1969, the Allmans were a pioneering jam band, trampling the traditional notion of three-minute pop songs by performing lengthy compositions in concert and on record. The band was also notable as a biracial group from the Deep South.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and founding member Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle crash a year later. That left Betts and Allman’s younger brother Gregg as the band’s leaders, but they frequently clashed, and substance abuse caused further dysfunction. The band broke up at least twice before reforming, and has had more than a dozen lineups.

The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2012. Betts left the group for good in 2000, and also played solo and with his own band Great Southern, which included his son, guitarist Duane Betts.

Forrest Richard Betts was born Dec. 12, 1943, and was raised in the Bradenton, Florida, area, near the highway 41 he sang about in “Ramblin’ Man.” His family had lived in area since the mid-19th century.

Betts grew up listening to country, bluegrass and Western swing, and played the ukulele and banjo before focusing on the electric guitar because it impressed girls. At 16 he left home for his first road trip, joining the circus to play in a band.

He returned home, and with bassist Oakley joined a group that became the Jacksonville,

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