Dickey Betts, guitarist and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, dies 80 (2024)

Dickey Betts, the guitarist and co-founder of Southern rockers the Allman Brothers Band, died Thursday of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 80.

In statement posted to Betts’ website, the musician’s family said he died at home in Osprey, Fla. They said Betts was a “legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader, and family patriarch.

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


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While the group’s titular brothers were the frontmen, Betts’ ferocious and stylish playing gave the group its distinct flavor of harmonized guitar solo, tempered with the jazz and country influences that made the Allman Brothers such influential, cross-genre favorites of the era. Betts wrote and sang on several of the group’s most beloved singles, including “Ramblin’ Man” and the instrumentals “Jessica” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”


Born in West Palm Beach, Fla., Betts proved a fast study on guitar, banjo and other instruments. He formed a group called the Second Coming with bassist Berry Oakley, who later introduced him to Duane Allman. Betts joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, and quickly made his mark with both his outlaw good looks and his writing on songs like “Revival” and “Blue Sky” as the band became a global superstar of the southern rock movement alongside peers such as Lynyrd Skynyrd.

After Duane Allman’s death in a 1971 motorcycle crash, Betts uneasily became a co-frontman, though albums like the Allmans’ 1973 smash “Brothers and Sisters” and his rangy 1974 solo LP “Highway Call” proved he could find both commercial success and critical acclaim in his new role.


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Betts had a fan in then-President Carter. In one memorable meeting at the White House, where Betts was attending a jazz performance, “Jimmy was walking around the premises and someone said to me, ‘Go over and talk to him,’ but I didn’t want to bother him,” Betts told Rolling Stone. “Then I went to use the men’s room in the White House, and as I was coming out, I ran into Jimmy with a group of people and he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dickey Betts, one of the best songwriters around nowadays.’ That just floored me.”

After the band fell apart in the late ‘70s (in part over a drug trial involving a band employee), Betts recorded with his group Great Southern, while the Allmans reunited briefly in 1979 and again in 1989, finding renewed critical and chart success and performing at Woodstock ’94. He was widely credited as the inspiration for Billy Crudup’s character of Russell in Cameron Crowe’s film “Almost Famous.”

Yet Betts’ temper and substance use — long part of rock ’n’ roll legend — became a liability in the group. He was arrested several times over the decades for fighting with police officers, and in 2000 he left the band. “The Allman Brothers Band deserved a better ending than this. We’ve done so many great things, stuck together through all these things,” Betts told the Hartford Courant in 2000.


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The Allman Brothers Band continued touring (with guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks), while Betts retired and un-retired from performing. In 2018, Betts canceled live dates after suffering a stroke and slipping in his backyard, injuring his head in what his family described as a “freak accident. Dickey is a notorious fighter and he is displaying that now.”


Betts is survived by his wife, Donna, and four children, Duane (also an acclaimed singer-songwriter), Christy, Jessica and Kim.


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Dickey Betts, guitarist and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, dies 80 (2024)


Dickey Betts, guitarist and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, dies 80? ›

Dickey Betts, a founding member of the renowned rock group the Allman Brothers Band, died at at his home in Osprey, Fla. on Thursday. The influential guitarist, songwriter and vocalist had been battling two kinds of cancer as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He was 80 years old.

Was Dickey Betts a founding member of the Allman Brothers? ›

Forrest Richard Betts (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) was an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer and founding member of The Allman Brothers Band.

Who died from the Allman Brothers today? ›

Allman Brothers Band co-founder and legendary guitarist Dickey Betts dies at 80. Dickey Betts, who died Thursday at age 80, really was born a ramblin' man.

Which was the founder and lead guitarist of the Allman Brothers? ›

Dickey Betts, who died Thursday at age 80, really was born a ramblin' man. He left home at 16 to join the circus and became a renowned guitarist touring the world with the Allman Brothers Band. He wrote the group's biggest hit, “Ramblin' Man,” and remained on the road until he reached the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Who was the best guitarist in the Allman Brothers Band? ›

Dickey Betts, who formed a legendary lead guitar duo with Duane Allman in the Allman Brothers Band and was widely considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, died Thursday morning. He was 80. A 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Betts lived in and around the Sarasota, Fla., area for most of his life.

When did Dickey Betts get kicked out of the Allman Brothers? ›

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.

Who were the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band? ›

The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969 by brother Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar) with Gregg Allman (vocals, organ, songwriting), Dickey Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass guitar), Butch Trucks (drums), and Jaimoe (drums).

Which Allman brother shot himself? ›

Butch Trucks, drummer and founding member of Southern rock pioneers the Allman Brothers Band, has died at the age of 69. His death, which occurred on January 24 at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, has been ruled a suicide, the Miami Herald reports.

Is anyone from the Allman Brothers Band still alive? ›

Historic Rose Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of bandmates Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks. Dickey Betts passed away recently on April 18, 2024. Jaimoe is the only surviving original ABB member.

Who is buried with the Allman Brothers? ›

In Macon, historic Rose Hill Cemetery contains the graves of not only Duane Allman and Berry Oakley of The Allman Brothers Band (who died in tragic motorcycle accidents just 13 months and three blocks apart), but of Martha Ellis, the namesake inspiration of the band's classic “l*ttle Martha.” ABB pilgrims often end a ...

What happened to Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers? ›

He denied reports that he had entered hospice care, but was resting at home on doctor's orders. Allman died at his home in Richmond Hill, Georgia, on May 27, 2017, due to complications from liver cancer at the age of 69.

Why did the Allman Brothers break up? ›

Later, drugs, drink, ego clashes, label problems and lawsuits would eventually break up the band not once but twice (when Betts was unable to curb his substance abuse, they fired him in 2000). Today, Gregg Allman reflects on what might have been had his brother lived.

Is Duane Allman related to Greg Allman? ›

For most of his life, Duane Allman was inseparable from his brother Gregg. Raised by their widowed mom in Nashville and Daytona Beach, they learned music together and played side-by-side in bands.

Who was the black guy in The Allman Brothers Band? ›

Jai Johanny Johanson
Jaimoe performing with The Allman Brothers Band in 2009
Background information
Birth nameJohn Lee Johnson
Also known asJaimoe Johnny Lee Johnson
8 more rows

Where does Dickey Betts rank as a guitarist? ›

He was inducted with The Allman Brothers Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and also won a best rock performance Grammy Award with the band for "Jessica" in 1996. Betts was ranked No. 58 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list in 2003, and No. 61 on the list published in 2011.

Did Duane Allman ever play with Eric Clapton? ›

Duane Allman met Eric Clapton on August 26 and went into the studio with Derek And The Dominos two days later. They then recorded 11 songs over the next seven days, some of them among the greatest in rock history.

How many original members of Allman Brothers Band left? ›

Historic Rose Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of bandmates Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks. Dickey Betts passed away recently on April 18, 2024. Jaimoe is the only surviving original ABB member.

Was Gregg Allman married at the time of his death? ›

During the last few months of his life, Gregg Allman and his wife, Shannon, would sit together in the sun on the porch of his house outside Savannah, near the swimming pool, with the Georgia Lowcountry landscape unfolding toward the Belfast River. They would hold hands, sometimes in silence.

Who was the original drummer for The Allman Brothers Band? ›

The Allman Brothers Band was an American blues rock band from Macon, Georgia. Formed in March 1969 by brothers Duane (guitar) and Gregg Allman (organ, vocals), the group originally also included guitarist and vocalist Dickey Betts, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson.


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