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Dickey Betts

+ {Dickey Betts & The Great Southern}

Inducted into Rolling Stone mag’s prestigious and most recent Top 100 guitarists of all-time (at No.61); other ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND alumni Duane Allman was at No.9 and new-kid-on-the-block, Derek Trucks, was at No.16, renowned songwriter/singer DICKEY BETTS was the ace up the sleeve for the aforementioned group until he was ousted by fax in 2000. It was he that penned classic early-70s southern-rock/country-blues tunes such as `In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’, `Revival’, `Blue Sky’, `Jessica’ and Top 3 smash, `Ramblin’ Man’.
Born Forrest Richard Betts, December 12, 1943, West Palm Beach, Florida, “Dickey” was an integral part of The ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND from 1969 onwards, only taking breaks when the group had periodical bouts of inactivity or disbandment. Growing up in a musical family, the child prodigy progressed from ukulele (at age 5), to mandolin and banjo, before settling with his trusty guitar. Pre-ALLMANs, he’d featured in local combos, The Jokers and The Second Coming, respectively, the latter a band that showcased future ABB bassist Berry Oakley, who tragically died in a motorcycle accident in the fall of ’72.
In between marriages to Sandy Bluesky Wabegijig and Paulette (GREGG ALLMAN’s “woman” CHER was friends with BETTS’ second wife), the guitarist’s HIGHWAY CALL (1974) {*7} debut LP was a significant side-line to his “family” life(s) – Brothers and all. Billed as Richard Betts and augmented by Chuck Leavell on piano (from ABB), John Hughey on steel guitar, bassist Johnny Sandlin, drummer David Walshaw, and guest fiddler Vassar Clements (who contributed finale piece, `Kissimmee Kid’), the pick of the country/bluegrass six-pack was the 14-minute master-class, `Hand Picked’.
When the Allmans imploded into fragments, the guitar ace duly formed DICKEY BETTS & THE GREAT SOUTHERN {*7}, releasing a Top 40 album of the same name in 1977. Enlisting the help of Dan Toler (guitars), Tom Broome (keyboards), Ken Tibbets (bass), Topper Price (harmonica) and Doni Sharbono and/or Jerry Thompson (drums/percussion), southern-rock boogie was back on the menu via `Out To Get Me’, `Run Gypsy Run’ and `Bougainvillea’; the latter co-authored with Miami Vice actor, Don Johnson.
Issued exactly a year later, ATLANTA’S BURNING DOWN (1978) {*6} failed to grab as much attention chart-wise, but it still packed a punch courtesy of three pieces penned with Billy Ray Reynolds: `Back On The Road Again’, `Dealin’ With The Devil’ and `Shady Streets’; the good-old-boy title track narrative (about the Civil war) was wholly down to his accomplice. While DYLAN’s soulful backing choir of Bonnie Bramlett, Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews gave the set a female touch, newcomers to the sect: Michael Workman, David “Frankie” Toler and David Goldflies (no Tibbets or Broome), focused on their muddier side of the tracks.
A decade in which the man returned to his first love, the ALLMANs, and performing at smaller venues when they split, The DICKEY BETTS BAND (aka Warren Haynes on guitars, slide and vocals, Marty Privette on bass, Johnny Neel on keyboards and Matt Abts on drums), 1988 saw the release of PATTERN DISRUPTIVE {*5}.
With The ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND out of the picture when they told him to clean up his act in 2000, The DICKEY BETTS BAND and a subsequent reformation of DICKEY BETTS & GREAT SOUTHERN welcomed back on the tour circuit; respective albums LET’S GET TOGETHER (2001) {*6} and THE COLLECTORS #1 (2002) {*5}, making it clear he’d not quite given up the ghost. INSTANT LIVE: THE ODEON CLEVELAND, OH 3/09/04 (2004) {*5} and 2010’s German retrospective double-set, ROCKPALAST: 30 Years of Southern Rock 1978-2008 {*6}, couldn’t quite match his glory years, but BETTS was still a remarkable guitarist.
© MCS Feb2013

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