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Dickey Betts Discusses Comeback Tour, Gregg Allman and More

Dean Budnick | May 17, 2018

Matt Houston/Herald Tribune Archive

For a long while, it appeared that Dickey Betts had delivered his final public performance on Nov. 1, 2014, during a charity event at Robarts Arena in Sarasota, Fla. Betts seemed to confirm this in a November interview, then changed course (as is his wont) on Dec. 12, his 74th birthday, with the announcement that he would indeed return to the road for a series of dates in 2018. His manager, David Spero, characterized Betts’ surprise decision as “a present to himself.”

Betts told his local newspaper, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “Everywhere I go, fans keep saying they want me to get out and play again. I think the time is right.” He decided to take things “back where it all begins” by opening his first run of shows at the Macon City Auditorium in Macon, Ga., where the Allman Brothers settled down together in 1970.

After acrimoniously parting ways with the band in 2000, Betts formed a new solo outfit and even returned to the studio for the first time in years. He eventually brought in another ABB alum, “Dangerous” Dan Toler, for a few years and revived his ‘70s solo band moniker Great Southern. Though the Brothers continued to play Betts’ music, especially his instrumentals, Great Southern became the most reliable place to hear his vocal songs, including some of the group’s biggest hits.

The new version of the Dickey Betts Band also features his son Duane on guitar, along with three other longtime members of Great Southern: Frankie Lombardi (drums), Mike Kach (keyboards and vocals) and Pedro Arevalo (bass). Betts has completed the collective with second drummer Steve Camilleri and a third guitar player, Damon Fowler. (Duane Betts, who has toured with his father and had a stint on the road with Dawes, will open the Macon gig and many of the dates to follow as a featured player with the Devon Allman Project.) The tour will kick off almost exactly a year after Gregg Allman’s passing; the ABB co-founders reconnected shortly before the singer’s death and Betts stepped back into the spotlight for the first time in a while to attend his funeral.

As for the group’s repertoire, Betts suggests that, along with his songwriting staples, which include classics like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Blue Sky,” “Southbound,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “Jessica,” “High Falls” and “Back Where It All Begins,” he will also dip into the late Gregg Allman’s catalog. Beyond the initial round of announced gigs, Betts promises “a few more” are in the mix as well.