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As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey has become an American icon with his song “Ramblin’ Man”. His guitar on “Touch the Ground” shows us why Dickey is a true living legend.
Best known as a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey was inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and also won with the band a best rock performance Grammy Award for his instrumental “Jessica” in 1996. Recognized as one of the finest rock guitar players of all time, he had early on in his career one of rock’s finest guitar partnerships with the late Duane Allman introducing melodic twin guitar harmony and counterpoint which “rewrote the rules for how two rock guitarists can work together, completely scrapping the traditional rhythm/lead roles to stand toe to toe”. Dickey Betts was ranked #58 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list in 2003, and #61 on the list published in 2011.
Betts grew up in a musical family listening to bluegrass, country and Western Swing music. He started playing ukelele at five and, as his hands got bigger, moved on to mandolin, banjo and guitar. At sixteen and feeling the need for something “a little faster,” he played in a series of rock bands on the Florida circuit, up the East Coast and into the midwest before forming the Second Coming with Berry Oakley in 1967. According to Rick Derringer, the “group called the Jokers” referenced in “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” was one of Betts’ early groups.
Betts, over the course of one night’s traveling, practiced slide guitar intensively in order to cover the majority of Duane’s parts. He went on to write such Southern Rock classics as “Jessica” and the Allmans’ biggest commercial hit, “Ramblin’ Man”.
Betts’ first solo album, Highway Call, was released in 1974, and featured the late fiddle player Vassar Clements. After the Allmans fell apart in 1976, Betts released more albums, starting with Dickey Betts & Great Southern in 1977, which featured the hit “Bougainvillea”, co-written with future Hollywood star Don Johnson. In 1978 he released an album entitled Atlanta’s Burning Down.
In the early days of the Allman Brothers, Betts played a 1961 Gibson SG, given to Duane Allman in 1971 to use as an all-slide guitar. He then used a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, calling it “Goldie”. He has recently painted it red. Early on in the Allman Brothers days he occasionally played a Fender Stratocaster, and has been an on-and-off endorser and player of PRS guitars. In 1974 Betts procured an ALEMBIC custom guitar inlaid with his name “Richard Betts” up the fretboard. He is pictured with it in a Guitar magazine article from around that time. As of April 2009, Betts is using a red Fender Telecaster with a pearloid pickguard. Betts can also be seen playing a Cherry Red 1961 Gibson ES-335