Personalities | Dickey Betts | The ‘Goldie’ Touch | Guitar Heroes

Southern blues-rock guitarist Dickey Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1943. Betts was leading a group called The Second Coming when he met and jammed with the other members of what soon became The Allman Brothers Band.

His role as second lead guitarist and his partnership with Duane Allman gave the band their trademark dual-lead sound, which was captured at its most potent on The Allmans’ seminal double live album At Fillmore East (1971), particularly the side-long epic ‘Whipping Post’.

Following Allman’s death in 1971, Betts became sole lead guitarist and took on more of the lead vocals. He wrote many of The Allmans’ most celebrated songs, including ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’, ‘Blue Sky’, ‘Ramblin’ Man’ – the band’s biggest US hit – and ‘Jessica’, which has served as the theme to British motoring programme ‘Top Gear’ for many years.

Betts released his first solo album, Highway Call (1974), and when The Allmans split in 1976, he resumed his solo career with Dickey Betts And Great Southern (1977) and Atlanta’s Burning Down (1978). The release of a box-set retrospective helped rekindle interest in The Allman Brothers Band, leading to them re-forming, with a revised line-up, in 1978, which marked the start of a cycle of splits and reunions. The band made three more studio albums and released several live sets, remaining a popular attraction in concert. In the mid-1990s, Betts was suffering problems with alcohol, which necessitated his replacement on some dates. In 2000, he was suspended by his colleagues for ‘personal and professional reasons’ and, following legal action on his part, the separation became permanent. Betts relaunched his solo career, forming the Dickey Betts Band, which turned into Dickey Betts & Great Southern. His son, Duane, joined the band on lead guitar. In 2009, Betts announced his retirement from touring and live performances, although he has since resumed touring with Great Southern.

Early in his career, Betts played a 1961 Gibson SG, which he subsequently gave to Allman for slide work. He replaced this with a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, nicknamed ‘Goldie’, which became synonymous with him. He has also played Fender Stratocasters and PRS guitars.

Essential Recordings

The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East

Solo: Highway Call

with Great Southern: Dickey Betts And Great Southern

with Great Southern: Atlanta’s Burning Down

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