Dickey Betts, cofounder of the Allman Brothers, dies at 80

Betts' guitar was a key piece of the band's unique sound, which pioneered Southern rock.

Dickey Betts, best known as a cofounder and guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band, died on April 18. He was 80.

Betts, who wrote the band's biggest hit, "Ramblin' Man," died at his home in Osprey, Fla., Entertainment Weekly has confirmed. Betts' manager, David Spero, told Rolling Stone the cause of death was cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Despite not being an Allman, Betts was one of the Allman Brothers' key original members. His fierce guitar solos and equally strong personality were critical to the group's pioneering sound. Their first album, released in 1969, helped forge the now-familiar Southern rock genre, influencing countless bands that would follow in their footsteps.

<p>Fin Costello/Redferns</p> Dickey Betts

Fin Costello/Redferns

Dickey Betts

Two years after their debut album, Duane Allman, who shared lead guitar duties with Betts, died in a motorcycle accident. A year later, founding member Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident. The group carried on with Betts and Gregg Allman as its leaders.

Allman and Betts frequently and publicly clashed. The band broke up multiple times and had more than a dozen lineup configurations. Despite the battles, including Betts telling Rolling Stone in 1976, "There is no way we can work with Gregg again. Ever," the pair frequently reunited and toured. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Nonetheless, that tension continued through the '90s when Allman got sober. In 2000, Betts was informed via fax that he would be replaced on the band's next tour. It read, "We hope that you will seek treatment and return to us happy and healthy in the fall,” he told Entertainment Weekly, before adding, "These things happen in families... I don't want you to think I don't love these guys. They aren't nasty guys." Betts later declined an offer to join the band's 40th anniversary tour in 2009.

Still, Betts and Allman reconciled before Allman's death in 2017, just months after the death of Butch Trucks.

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p> The Allman Brothers

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Allman Brothers

The guitarist, with a cowboy mustache that was as much a fixture on stage as a Les Paul guitar, also performed as Dickey Betts and the Great Southern and briefly played as Betts, Hall, Leavell and Trucks in the '80s with Jimmy Hall, and Allman Brothers' members Chuck Leavell and Butch Trucks. Great Southern would later feature Betts' son, Duane Betts, as a member.

Tributes to the legendary guitarist poured in across social media on Thursday. "The monuments that he helped to create for Southern rock will never be replicated," The Marshall Tucker Band posted on X.

"My first concert was Dickey Betts at Coleman's in Rome, New York, in 1983," guitarist Joe Bonamassa wrote. "Blew my mind and made me want a Les Paul."

Betts is survived by his wife, Donna.

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