Allman Brothers Guitarist & Co-Founder Dickey Betts Dies at 80

Allman Brothers Band co-founder and songwriter Dickey Betts, who wrote the band’s smash single “Ramblin’ Man,” has died at 80.

In addition to dealing with COPD, Betts had been fighting cancer for more than a year.

The Allman Brothers Band was among the first bands to perform a blues, country, R&B, jazz, and rock hybrid in the 1960s. As a multiracial ensemble from the Deep South, they were especially noteworthy.

Two members of the band—founding members Berry Oakley and Duane Allman—died in motorcycle accidents in 1971 and 1972, respectively. As the band’s leaders, Betts and Gregg, Allman’s younger brother, were notoriously dysfunctional due to their frequent arguments and Gregg’s drug misuse.

With over a dozen formations, the band went through at least two breakups before getting back together.

In 2012, the Allman Brothers Band received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1995, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Besides playing alone and with his band Great Southern—including his son, guitarist Duane Betts—Betts departed the group permanently in 2000.

Country, bluegrass, and Western swing were staples in Betts’ upbringing in Bradenton, Florida, where he was born on December 12, 1943. In 1959, at 16, he left home to join the circus featuring a band.  Betts played ukelele and banjo before settling on the electric guitar to be more popular with the girls.

In the late 1960s, he and bassist Oakley joined a band called Second Coming. Sometime in 1969, they jammed with Duane and Gregg Allman, later forming The Allman Brothers.

The band’s first album was released in 1969.

“Idlewild South” was issued in 1972, and it included Betts’ instrumental work “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”

“At Fillmore East” was a 1971 double CD that showcased Allman and Betts’ distinctive guitar interplay and was widely regarded as one of the best live recordings of the classic rock period. “Brothers and Sisters” reached number one in 1973 and included the single “Ramblin’ Man,” which brought twang to the Top 40 thanks to Betts’s lead vocals, while the band’s popularity continued to rise.

Betts wrote or co-wrote “Blue Sky” and “Southbound,” two of the band’s most beloved tunes.

Betts and Warren Haynes continued to play guitar, and the band was a popular touring act in subsequent years. In 2017, Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman passed away.