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Dickey Betts at 70: Relive Some of the Guitarist’s Greatest Moments

by Rob Slater on December 12, 2013

Dickey Betts, founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, turns 70 years old. In typical Betts fashion, the West Palm Beach, FL native will celebrate his 70th tomorrow night with a show near home in Sarasota, FL with daughter Kim as well as members of one of his solo projects--Great Southern.

As far as influence is concerned, Betts ranks near the top as the guitarist is directly responsible for timeless tracks like "Jessica," "Blue Sky," "Ramblin' Man" and many, many more. Betts, along with late ABB guitarist Duane Allman, redefined the dual guitar attack, introducing twin harmonies and call-and-response tactics that completely flipped the script for bands that came after. To celebrate Dickey's birthday today, here is a collection of some of his greatest achievements in songwriting and performing.

"Ramblin' Man"

Seemingly every time Dickey Betts wrote a song, it landed high on the radio charts. This 1973 Brothers and Sisters cut was no exception, as "Ramblin' Man" topped out at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, serving as ABB's biggest hit. Following the deaths of guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, the Allman's delivered one of their strongest, most inspired efforts to date.

"Jessica" with Chuck Leavell

Betts' uplifting instrumental "Jessica" served as the other centerpiece to Brothers and Sisters and signified a shift in sound following the loss of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. With the addition of keyboardist Chuck Leavell as well as bassist Lamar Williams, "Jessica" showcases Betts complementing Leavell much like he did Duane Allman. While it was no longer a dual guitar attack, the same principles were (always) in place. Here is Leavell and Betts performing the tune at the Capitol Theatre in 1984.

"Blue Sky"

Recently, Dickey Betts joined Tedeschi Trucks Band during their multi-night run at New York's Beacon Theatre. "Blue Sky" serves as another Betts composition from the Eat a Peach double album and showcases the cohesiveness Duane Allman and Betts had built up before Allman's untimely passing. Seamlessly transitioning between lead guitar and melodic accompaniments, "Blue Sky" is a clinic in guitar arrangements.

"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"

You don't have to stray too far from Betts' sit in with TTB at the Beacon to find another iconic Dickey Betts composition. "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" may be the fastest, most captivating seven minutes ever recorded to tape. Thankfully, the live versions built upon the Idlewild South studio cut, further establishing "Elizabeth Reed" as one of the most dominant Allman Brothers tracks. This composition finds Betts at his most adventurous, which says something considering this was the first instrumental he wrote for the band. Infused with hints of jazz and good ol' Southern rock, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" is a timeless piece of music.

Here's a classic version with Duane Allman from the Fillmore East on 9/23/70.

Dickey Betts & Great Southern

Betts' solo effort along with the Great Southern band produced some strong results over the years. Releasing five albums with Great Southern, two with the Dickey Betts Band and Night an unreleased country album of just Dickey, the guitarist's solo career is one that has lasted the better part of 30 years. Here is a clip of Betts and Great Southern performing the classic blues number "Statesboro Blues."



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