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Allman Brothers co-founder and guitarist Dickey Betts dies, age 80

Dickey Betts, the guitarist and co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, has died at the age of 80.

The news was confirmed by his manager, who told Rolling Stone that the musician had passed away today (April 18) from cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“The legendary performer, songwriter, bandleader and family patriarch was at his home in Osprey, Florida, surrounded by his family,” read an official statement. “Dickey was larger than life, and his loss will be felt worldwide. 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 first began playing with The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, initially as the joint lead guitarist alongside Duane Allman, and then as sole lead guitarist after Duane’s death in 1971.

He was a prolific writer for the band, too, penning their biggest hit single ‘Rambin’ Man’ in 1973, as well as the instrumental ‘Jessica’, which later became the theme song for the BBC’s Top Gear.

Born Forrest Richard Betts on December 12, 1943, he began playing the ukulele at the age of five, and as a teenager he was playing in a series of rock bands in his native Florida, including Second Coming with Berry Oakley.

In 1969, Duane and Gregg Allman were looking to expand their own band, and Betts and Oakley were invited to join. The band would ultimately be based in Macon, Georgia and came to define the Southern rock sound, with Betts and Duane Allman honing a lyrical, melodic joint lead guitar sound that was in opposition to the more standard lead and rhythm guitar roles of the era.

Known for their extended jam band improvisations, and combining country and blues influences into their classic rock aesthetic, they received commercial and critical success with albums such as the 1971 live album ‘At Fillmore East’ and 1972’s ‘Eat a Peach’, the latter of which was dedicated to the memory of Duane, who had recently been killed in a motorcycle accident.

The band continued to play sporadically up until 2014, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Betts also recorded a number of solo albums under the names Richard Betts, Dickey Betts & Great Southern and the Dickey Betts Band.

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