Dickey Betts, legendary Allman Brothers co-founder and guitarist, dies at 80

Betts, who had been suffering from ill-health since his last performance in 2018, died in his Florida home

Published April 18, 2024 3:17PM (EDT)

Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers performs during Laguna Seca Daze at Laguna Seca Racetrack on May 30, 1993 in Monterey, California.  (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers performs during Laguna Seca Daze at Laguna Seca Racetrack on May 30, 1993 in Monterey, California. (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Dickey Betts, the singer-musician whose versatile compositions helped define the apogee of Southern Rock in the '70s and '80s, died at age 80 in his Osprey, Florida home. The news was announced by his family on Instagram. "Dickey was larger than life, and his loss will be felt world-wide," the post said. His manager David Spero told Rolling Stone that Betts had been suffering from ill-health for several years, including cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Betts spent most of his musical career in the Allman Brothers, a band founded by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman and whose sound emerged from a fusion of rock, country, and electric blues. Though Duane died in a 1971 motorcycle accident, the band continued to surge in popularity, helped in no small part by Betts' natural musicality and ardent mastery of voice and Gibson Les Paul guitar alike. Betts represented country's strongest influence in the band's musical style—his big hit "Ramblin' Man" sets the lyrics of a man “born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus rollin’ down Highway 41” to buoyant music evocative of untroubled wanderlust. He also composed or contributed to other staples of the band's repertoire, including "Blue Sky," "Pony Boy," and "Straight from the Heart." 

The band was often riven with competing egos, scorching tempers, and escalating drug use that led to its first dispersal in 1976. They rejoined in 1978, then split again in 1982; a final re-unification in 1989 lasted until 2014, when most of the band members peacefully parted ways. Betts did not last for even half that timehis rowdy behavior angered the now-sober Gregg Allman, who ejected him from the band in 1993.

Betts reconciled with Allman before the latter died in 2017, and attended his funeral. But until his retirement in 2018, he spent the rest of his performing days separately from Allman Brothers like a true ramblin' man.

In a statement from the Allman Brothers Band, family, and crew, they write:

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.


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