James Beaty: RAMBLIN' ROUND: Taking a musical journey with a 'Ramblin' Man'

Apr. 20—I thought I had this week's "Ramblin' Round" subject already chosen with a plan to proceed, but as the great Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns wrote, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Once I heard of the passing of yet another guitar legend on Thursday, I knew there was no way I could let another addition of "Ramblin' Round" go by without at tribute to the "Ramblin' Man" himself, Dickey Betts.

It's not often that a group has two legendary guitarists in its lineup, as the Allman Brothers Band did when Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were both on board as guitar slingers for the enduring southern rock group.

Although the Yardbirds did them one better by having Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page — although not all at the same time — in that group's trifecta, the team of Duane Allman and Betts is still impressive.

Betts' family said he passed away peacefully at the age of 80 on Thursday, April 18, at home in Florida, following an illness.

During his time with the Allman Brothers Band, his own bands and performing as a solo artist, Betts built a solid repertoire that's left a lasting impression on music fans.

Together Duane Allman and Dickey Betts built a twin guitar sound that became one of the mainstays of the genre known as southern rock.

Along with Duane's brother, Greg Allman on keyboards and vocals, Berry Oakley Jr. on bass and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johnny Johanson, also known as Jaimoe, they developed a unique blues-rock sound, as evidenced on the Allman Brothers Band live album, "At Fillmore East."

Originally recorded as a double-sided vinyl LP, the album's seven songs covered all four sides of the recording, with extended jams featured on several songs.

One of the best album cuts is "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," an instrumental written by Betts.

Other standout tracks include the Allman Brothers Band's version of blues standards, with the band members putting their unique spin on each of the songs.

They included The Allman Brothers Band's versions of Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" and T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday" along with the Elmore James song "Done Somebody Wrong" and some Allman Brothers originals, such as "Whipping Post" and "Hot 'Lanta."

One of my favorites from the series is "Mountain Jam," a 33-minute workout included on an expanded version and also on "Eat A Peach," which included more songs from the Fillmore East concert.

I liked "Mountain Jam" because I already liked the song on which it's based, "There Is A Mountain," by Donovan.

Indeed the songwriter's credit on "Mountain Jam" goes to Donovan, along with individual members of the Allman Brothers Band.

Unfortunately, Betts and Duane Allman's teamwork ended when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971. About a year later, the Allman Brothers Band original bass guitarist, Berry Oakley Jr. died in a motorcycle crash not far from where Duane Allman died.

Still, the Allman Brothers Band pushed on, releasing a series of memorable albums and becoming a live performance powerhouse.

I wish I could have seen the. Allman Brothers Band perform with that original classic lineup.

By the time I caught them at a concert at the LLoyd Nobel Center in Norman, the front lineup included Gregg Allman, Betts and female vocalist Bonnie Bramlett.

I was familiar with Bramlett, due to her work in a band she had formed with her husband, Delaney Bramlett, known as Delaney & Bonnie. That group had lots of fans, especially among the British rock aristocracy, who loved the band's southern earthy sound.

Another guitar virtuoso, Eric Clapton, toured with Delaney & Bonnie as a sideman in England and Europe. He looked to be having so much fun, that his pal, George Harrison, joined them as well.

That ended up with Delaney & Bonnie then being billed as Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Delaney Bramlett has been credited with giving Clapton vocal advice and helping him gain the confidence to take more lead vocals in Clapton's post-Cream days.

So by the time I saw the Allman Brothers Band, I felt surprised to see Bonnie Bramlett in the front lineup. More than providing harmony and background, she also sang a number of lead vocals when I caught the group.

By that time, Betts had continued to be recognized as a fantastic guitarist in his own right, not merely as a partner with Duane Allman.

He also developed as a songwriter, contributing four of the seven songs on the Allman Brothers Band's fourth album, "Brothers and Sisters."

He contributed four songs — including, I think, three of the best ones — on the album: The instrumentals "Southbound" and "Jessica" along with the single that became the band's biggest hit, "Ramblin' Man."

Betts has said he felt inspired to write the song by a friend of his who asked him how he'd been doing, before answering the question himself: "I guess you're trying to make a living and doing the best you can."

Later, Betts recalled how he borrowed the title from Hank Williams' song "Ramblin' Man," although, except for the title, the two songs sound nothing alike.

While Betts' song could be considered an upbeat ode to life on the road, Williams' song is a minor-keyed, heart-wrenching dirge, in the best way.

"Ramblin' Man,"both written and sang by Betts with extraordinary guitar accompaniment, became the biggest hit ever for the Allman Brothers, ambling all the way to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

He's told a hilarious story about meeting up with Bob Dylan on a concert stage somewhere and Dylan suggesting they perform a song together, right then and there.

Betts, likely thinking Dylan would name one of his own classics, asked Dylan what he wanted to play — and he surprised Betts by saying we wanted them to perform "Ramblin' Man."

When Betts questioned if Dylan knew all the words to the song, Dylan assured him he knew "Ramblin' Man" by heart and then joked he should have written it himself.

He went on to prove it by singing the song, nailing all the words and mightily impressing Betts in the process.

No doubt the music of Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band will endure for future generations — and that's not entirely up to chance.

In 2004, the National Recording Registry selected the Allman Brothers Band "At Fillmore East" for preservation in the Library of Congress after determining the album to be "culturally, historically or aesthetically important."

Betts would write another of my favorite Allman Brothers Band songs, "Blue Sky," but he will forever be remembered as the "Ramblin' Man" in the hearts of his many fans.