Americans are mourning the loss of yet another rock legend

Apr 30, 2024

The age of classic rock is coming to a sad end.

There are very few of the original rock and roll stars left alive these days.

And now, Americans are mourning the loss of yet another rock legend.

Dickey Betts, a noted guitarist and the co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, has died.

The end of an era

Betts, who was 80, passed away on April 18, according to a family statement put out by his longtime manager.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announce the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts,” the statement reads.

“The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch 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 world-wide. At this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and respect for their privacy in the coming days. More information will be forthcoming at the appropriate time.”

David Spero, Betts’ longtime manager, told Rolling Stone the guitarist had been battling cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Betts was a native of West Palm Beach, Florida.

His musical influences included bluegrass, country, and early rock and roll.

He was famous for not just his amazing guitar skills and co-founding The Allman Brothers Band, but also for largely developing and defining the sound of Southern rock in the 60’s and 70’s.

Betts, joined with bass guitarist Berry Oakley, drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe, and his brothers, Gregg and Duane Allman to form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969.

The Allman Brothers Band became one of the top Southern Rock bands in the nation, and the world, with a number of classic hits that remain wildly popular today.

Betts wrote and sang the group’s biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

Betts said he initially wrote the song for it to be sung by another artist.

“I was going to send ‘Ramblin’ Man’ to Johnny Cash,” Betts said in a 2020 interview, saying he “thought it was a great song for him.”

“But everybody liked that song. Even my dad liked the song, before we recorded it or anything. And I’m thinking, I’m going to 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, ‘Well, I got one but I was going to send it to Nashville for Cash to record.’ He said, ‘Let’s hear it.’ And then, ‘No! we gotta do that.’”

Blue Skies and tragedies

Other big Allman Brothers songs written by Betts were “Blue Sky” and their classic anthem “Jessica.”

But it wasn’t all “Blue Skies” for Betts and the band.

Tragedy struck the group in 1971 when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident.

And then, Oakley was killed in another motorcycle crash just a year later.

Betts and Gregg Allman became the band’s leaders, but things didn’t go smoothly.

Creative differences between the two, and substance abuse in the group caused them to break up the band and reform it multiple times over the years.

But through everything, there was no doubting their talent and the impact they had on American music.

And there was no questioning their fame and their loyal following.

In 1973, 16-year-old Cameron Crowe followed the Allman Brothers Band while they toured.

He went on to write a Rolling Stone cover story about his time with the band, which provided the inspiration for Crowe’s Oscar-winning 2000 movie, “Almost Famous.”

In a 2017 interview, Crowe said the movie’s Billy Crudup rock star character is “a tribute” to Betts.

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

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

The later years

Betts left The Allman Brothers Band for good in 2000 in a highly publicized split.

While The Allman Brothers Band continued to tour for almost 15 more years, and released one more studio album, Betts instead toured with his Great Southern group, which also featured his son Duane, and released a studio album of their own.

Betts retired from music in 2014.

He will be missed.

Read All About It will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.

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