Years: 1960 - present
Styles: Bluegrass, Blues Rock, Country Rock, Southern Rock
Dickey Betts - Acoustic guitar , Guitar, Lead vocals, Resonator Guitar [Dobro] (in band: 1974)
He was inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and also won with the band a best rock performance Grammy Award for his instrumental "Jessica" in 1996 Recognized as one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time, he had early on in his career one of rock’s finest guitar partnerships with Duane Allman introducing melodic twin guitar harmony and counterpoint which "rewrote the rules for how two rock guitarists can work together. Dickey Betts was ranked #58 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list in 2003, and #61 on the list published in 2011.
Betts grew up in a musical family listening to bluegrass, country and Western Swing music. He started playing ukulele at five and, as his hands got bigger, moved on to mandolin, banjo and guitar. At sixteen and feeling the need for something "a little faster", he played in a series of rock bands on the Florida circuit, up the East Coast and into the midwest before forming the Second Coming with Berry Oakley in 1967. According to Rick Derringer, the "group called the Jokers" referenced in "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" was one of Betts' early groups.
In 1969, Duane Allman had parlayed success as a session player into a contract with former Otis Redding manager Phil Walden. Walden planned to back a power trio featuring Allman, who needed to put together the rest of the band. When Allman organized jam sessions as part of his effort to recruit Oakley for the group, Betts sat in. During those jams twin guitar parts, influenced by the harmonized fiddle and guitar parts Betts had heard on bluegrass and Bob Wills records growing up, began to emerge and give the sound a unique flavor. Those harmonies gave the putative power trio an additional guitarist (the band eventually grew to six members) and Dickey Betts the opening for stardom as a co-founder and key contributor to the Allman Brothers Band. In addition to the harmonies, his melodic, country-esque lead guitar style contrasted perfectly with Duane's fiery, blues/jazz-based style. He also wrote songs including "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Blue Sky" that became radio and concert staples.
After the death of Duane Allman in late 1971, Betts became the band's sole guitarist and also took on a greater singing and leadership role. Betts, over the course of one night's traveling, practiced slide guitar intensively in order to cover the majority of Duane's parts. He went on to write such Southern Rock classics as "Jessica" and the Allmans' biggest commercial hit, "Ramblin' Man".
Betts's first solo album, "Highway Call", was released in 1974, and featured fiddle player Vassar Clements. After the Allmans fell apart in 1976, Betts released more albums, starting with Dickey Betts & Great Southern in 1977, which featured the hit "Bougainvillea", co-written with future Hollywood star Don Johnson. In 1978 he released an album entitled "Atlanta's Burning Down".
Betts returned to his solo career, performing live at smaller venues and releasing the album "Pattern Disruptive" in 1989. When a one-off reunion tour was proposed in support of the ABB "Dreams" box set released in 1989 to commemorate the bands 20th anniversary, Betts' solo band again supplied the ABB's other guitarist, this time slide guitar master Warren Haynes.
Betts was replaced on numerous tour dates throughout the mid-to-late 90s for what were reported in the media as "personal reasons". While remaining active as a touring band, they failed to release an album of new studio material after 1994's "Where It All Begins" until 2003's "Hittin' the Note." Haynes and ABB bassist Allen Woody formed Gov't Mule with former Dickey Betts Band drummer Matt Abts as a side project in 1994 and Betts left the Allman Brothers for Gov't Mule full-time in 1997. Bett's last show with the ABB was at the Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.
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