Ramblin' Man Writer Dickey Betts Is Dead

The 80-year-old was a co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 18, 2024 12:11 PM CDT

Guitar legend Dickey Betts, who co-founded the Allman Brothers Band and wrote their biggest hit, "Ramblin' Man," has died at the age of 80, per the AP. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Florida, said David Spero, Betts' manager of 20 years. Betts had been battling cancer for more than a year and had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "He was surrounded by his whole family and he passed peacefully," said Spero. "They didn't think he was in any pain."

  • Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre—Southern rock. Acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans' music, which combined the blues, country, R&B, and jazz with '60s rock.

  • Forrest Richard Betts was raised in the Bradenton, Florida, area, near the highway 41 he sang about in "Ramblin' Man." His family had lived in the area since the mid-19th century. Betts grew up listening to country, bluegrass, and Western swing, and played the ukulele and banjo before focusing on the electric guitar because it impressed girls.
  • The soaring sound of Betts' guitar on "Ramblin' Man" reverberated in neighborhood bars around the country for decades, and the song underscored his knack for melodic hooks. "Ramblin' Man" was the Allmans' only Top Ten hit, but Betts' catchy 7½-minute instrumental composition "Jessica," recorded in 1972, became an FM radio staple.
  • Betts also wrote or co-wrote some of the band's other best-loved songs, including "Blue Sky" and "Southbound."
  • The Allman Brothers Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2012. Betts left the group for good in 2000, and also played solo and with his own band Great Southern, which included his son, guitarist Duane Betts.
  • Read the full obituary, which chronicles Betts' run-ins with Gregg Allman.
(More Allman Brothers Band stories.)

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