Forrest Richard “Dickey” Betts, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter, has passed away. The musician, best known for hits like “Ramblin’ Man” and top tier instrumentals, “Jessica,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” and others, died peacefully while surrounded by family at his Osprey, Fla. home today, April 18, 2024. Betts was 80 years old. 

The news broke on social media via the artist’s official Instagram account: “It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that the Betts family announce the peaceful passing of Forrest Richard ‘Dickey’ Betts (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) at the age of 80 years old. The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch passed away earlier today at his home in Osprey, FL., surrounded by his family.”

The message continued, “Dickey was larger than life, and his loss will be felt world-wide. At this difficult time, the family asks for prayers and respect for their privacy in the coming days. More information will be forthcoming at the appropriate time.” 

Betts was born on Dec. 12, 1943, in West Palm, Fla., though raised across the state in Bradenton. During the musician’s early years, his family unlocked a deep love and admiration for music by exposing Betts to traditional bluegrass, country music, and Western swing. At age 5, Betts began playing the ukulele, and as he grew and his size allowed, he picked up the mandolin, banjo, and guitar. 

By 16, the artist had solidified his purpose as a musician, performing in various rock groups throughout his home state and the East Coast before forming Second Coming with Berry Oakley in 1967. Before the end of the decade, future Allman Brothers bandmate Duane Allman, a successful sessions player at the time, was contracted by Phil Walden to create a power trio, which swelled to a sextet: featuring brothers Duane and Gregg, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Oakley and Betts. 

Having moved to Macon, Ga., where Walden has established Capricorn Records, the unit forged a strong brotherhood, capturing their kinship on the debut self-titled studio album, The Allman Brothers Band. The album featured the band’s take on Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” and other enduring classics, such as “Whipping Post,” “Every Hungry Woman,” “Dreams,” and more. 

Unleashing their powerful blend of Southern-infused rock, powered by twin guitars and melded vocals, the band’s commercial success arrived in 1971 with the release of their two-disc live concert recording At Fillmore East. The recording dropped on July 6, 1971, four months prior to the tragic passing of Duane Allman, who succumbed to injuries stemming from a motorcycle accident. 

Duane’s death propelled Betts’ position in the band, pushing him into a more dominant role as a songwriter, instrumentalist, and occasional lead vocalist. The group’s Eat A Peach era represented another triumph time, considering the set’s lack of prior stable, Duane. Despite the massive shift, the group resumed success, favored work such as “Melissa” and Bett’s “Blue Sky,” representing a forever classic. 

With the release of Brothers and Sisters, Bett’s legacy as a songwriter was set with chart-topper “Ramblin’ Man.” The following year, 1974, the musician released his first solo album, Highway Call, which featured fiddler Vasssar Clements. At the same time, the Allman Brothers were playing major venues, though their relationships were being stifled by rising tension. 

Allman Brothers released their final original album, 1975’s Win, Lose or Draw–which came with its own challenges, given Gregg’s budding romance with Cher, preventing a Macon, Ga. return for recording. The band ultimately dissolved but would regroup three years later with Tom Dowd,  on Enlightened Rogues, which resulted in a lawsuit and the bankruptcy of Capricorn Records.

By the early ‘80s, the musician formed Betts, Hall, Leavell, and Trucks, co-fronting the group with Wet Willie singer and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Hall. Unable to secure a record contract, they disbanded in 1984, leading to another chapter of Betts’s solo career–eventually releasing 1989’s Pattern Disruptive

An Allman Brothers reunion tour sparked with the 20th anniversary of the Dreams box set, leading to what was proposed as a one-off tour featuring slide guitarist Warren Haynes. Success from the run incited more time on the road and three acclaimed studio LPs, Seven Turns, Shades of Two Worlds, and Where It All Begins, as well as live sets. 

While Betts parted ways with his original Allman bandmates, Gov’t Mule also sparked out from the hot coals of the late Peach State band’s touring success, given Matt Abts ties to Betts’s side project. Betts performed his last show with the Allman Brothers at Georgia’s Music Midtown Festival in 2000. Ultimately, the musician made one-off appearances, including sharing the stage with his son Duane Betts at Peach Music Festival, a moment Duane describes as “The most beautiful experience” in our recent interview. 

Given past indifferences, Betts was able to reconcile with bandmate Gregg prior to his 2017 passing. At the time, the musician also pushed live sets and added to his discography before quietly stepping away from the road after a mild stroke, which resulted in the cancellation of previously announced live shows. 

Personally, Betts married his fifth wife, Donna, in 1989, collectively welcoming children Kimberly, Christy, Jessica and Duane. During their shared time, Dickey and son Duane shared the stage during Allman Brothers reunion tours, often offering support for each other’s musical endeavors on social media. Betts is preceded in death by Allman Brothers bandmembers Duane and Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks. 

Following the announcement of the musician’s passing, fellow musicians shared memories of Betts via social media. See below.

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A post shared by Dickey Betts (@dickeybettsofficial)

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A post shared by Official Allman Brothers Band (@officialallmanbrothers)

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A post shared by Joe Bonamassa (@joebonamassa)