Dickey Betts, Legendary Allman Brothers Guitarist, Passes Away at 80

Dickey Betts, legendary guitarist and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, has passed away at the age of 80.

Dickey Betts, captured by legendary photojournalist Kirk West

Born Forrest Richard Betts on December 12, 1943 in West Palm Beach, Florida, “Dickey” as he was affectionately known, began honing his craft at an early age. He was born into a very musical family that reared him on traditional bluegrass, country, and Western swing. By the age of 5, he was playing ukulele and quickly thereafter mandolin, banjo, and guitar.

In 1967, Betts teamed up with Berry Oakley to form the Second Coming, which eventually led to him connecting with brothers Gregg and Duane Allman for jam sessions that became the foundation of the Allman Brothers Band.

Betts’ unique musical chemistry with Duane blew the lid off of rock and roll’s long upheld tradition of “one featured lead guitarist,” as the two powerhouses often worked in tandem to create guitar harmonies that forever changed the sound of the genre and aided in the creation of Southern Rock music as we know it.

Duane Allman and Dickey Betts

Upon Duane’s tragic passing in 1971, Betts became the band’s main guitarist, in addition to taking on more duties vocally and as a leader within the band. He was also a prolific composer and songwriter, having penned the iconic track “Jessica” (named after his daughter) and the band’s biggest commercial success, “Ramblin’ Man.”

Like so many significant and enormously successful bands throughout history, the journey of the Allman Brothers Band was not always an easy road to travel. Personal and creative tension and differences often bred animosity and even a need for a reprieve for the band in the late 1970s, a season that saw Betts explore solo opportunities and the formation of other bands.

Though Betts’ incredible musical gifts can never be disputed, it is arguably his work with the Allman Brothers Band that will cement his status in history books for generations to come. Betts, along with his bandmates, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is heralded by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” The New York Times has called Betts “one of the great rock guitarists…who thinks like a jazz improviser, in thoughtfully structured, cleanly articulated, intelligently paced phrases…[when] Mr. Betts was tearing into one of his improvisations, the music was about as exciting as rock and roll gets.”

via Duane Betts, Facebook

Betts was also a husband and devoted father of four. His family shared the following message on Betts’ official Instagram page:

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announce the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) at the age of 80 years old. 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.”

We will update this story as more details become available, with respect to his family and close friends as our top priority. Rest In Peace, Dickey. Thank you for the music and the many irreplaceable memories.