The Allman Brothers Band’s Dickey Betts Dies at 80

Dickey Betts, a guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, died at home in Osprey, Florida, this morning (April 18), Rolling Stone reports. The cause was cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Betts’ manager David Spero told the publication. Betts was 80 years old.

Born in West Palm Beach and raised in Bradenton, Florida, Betts learned the ukulele, banjo, and mandolin as a child and played in rock bands as a teenager. In 1967, in his mid-twenties, he formed a group called Second Coming with bassist Berry Oakley, before joining Gregg and Duane Allman two years later. Betts was pivotal to the group, not only for his mythic solos, performed in tandem with Duane Allman until his death in 1971; Betts also penned the instrumental “Jessica” and their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” among many other songs. Though “Jessica” came out in 1973, a live recording of the song won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance in 1996. Betts was inducted with the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Betts released his debut solo album, Highway Call, in 1974. After the Allman Brothers Band split in 1976, Betts continued touring and recording with his solo project and his band Great Southern, but joined Allman Brothers in their on-and-off reunions. He went on to release several more solo LPs, plus live albums and compilations.

Betts suffered a brain injury in 2018; he was playing with his dog in the backyard of his Sarasota home when he slipped and cracked his head. A statement from his website said that he was “in critical but stable condition” and was scheduled to head into surgery, though he canceled a string of live dates.

In a statement to Rolling Stone upon his death, Betts’ family called the guitarist a “legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader, and family patriarch,” adding, “Dickey was larger-than-life, and his loss will be felt worldwide. At this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and respect for their privacy in the coming days.”

In an additional statement, the Allman Brothers Band said:

With deep sadness the Allman Brothers Band learned today that founding member Dickey Betts has passed away peacefully in his home in Sarasota, Florida, following a period of declining health.

Dickey wrote quintessential Brothers songs including “Blue Sky,” “Rambling Man,” “Jessica,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and many others. His extraordinary guitar playing alongside guitarist Duane Allman created a unique dual guitar signature sound that became the signature sound of the genre known as Southern Rock.

He was passionate in life, be it music, songwriting, fishing, hunting, boating, golf, karate or boxing. Dickey was all in on and excelled at anything that caught his attention.

Betts joins his brothers, Duane Allman, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman, as well as ABB crew, members Twiggs Lyndon, Joe Dan Petty, Red Dog, Kim Payne and Mike Callahan in that old Winnebago in the sky touring the world taking their music to all who will listen.

Our condolences to his immediate family Donna, Duane & Lisa, Christy & Frank, Jessica, and Kim.

Play on Brother Dickey, you will be forever remembered and deeply missed.

Allman Brothers Band, Family, and Crew