Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers Band singer and guitarist, dies at 80

Dickey Betts founder of the Allman Bros.

Dickey Betts, the singer, songwriter and guitarist who co-founded the influential Allman Brothers Band, has died, family members announced on Thursday. He was 80.

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The Betts family confirmed his death in a statement shared on social media.

“The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch passed away earlier today at his home in Osprey, (Florida), surrounded by his family,” the statement read. “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.”

Betts’ manager, David Spero, told Rolling Stone that the musician died of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As part of the Allman Brothers Band, Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman and helped to create a new genre in the 1960s and 1970s — Southern rock, according to The Associated Press.

“Their Southern rock was an exciting fusion of rock, jazz, country and blues and was reflective of the emergency of the new South,” Willie Nelson said while inducting the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

“Like many of us in those days who came from the South, we grew up in an environment of music that included a bit of everything. Music was not confined in such rigid formats, and the Allman Brothers Band took what moved them and merged it into something unique that audiences loved, a sound that redefined the direction of rock and roll and opened the doors to a spirit of experimentation that continues in today’s music.”

Nelson praised Betts’ for his “incredible guitar licks.” The band also earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award in 2012.

Born Forrest Richard Betts on Dec. 12, 1943, Betts picked up music as a child. He began to play the ukulele around age five and later picked up the banjo and mandolin, Rolling Stone reported. He left home at 16 and joined the circus to play in a band, People reported.

After a jam session in 1969, Betts co-founded the Allman Brothers Band alongside Duane Allman, keyboardist and singer Gregg Allman, bassist Berry Oakland, drummer Butch Trucks and drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, according to Variety and People. The band gained notoriety for its live performances, with lengthy songs that eschewed the traditional three-minute pop song formula and made them a pioneering jam band, the AP reported.

Betts was pushed further into the spotlight following the death of Duane Allman in 1971, according to Variety. The 24-year-old was killed in a motorcycle accident. One year later, Oakley also died in a motorcycle crash at 24, the AP reported.

During his time with the Allman Brothers Band, Betts wrote and co-wrote some of the group’s most well-known songs, including 1973′s “Ramblin’ Man.” He left the band for good in 2000 amid a conflict over his continued drug and alcohol use, according to the AP and People.

Betts is survived by his longtime wife, Donna, and four children, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

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