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.”

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