Dickey Betts, Fiery Guitarist With Allman Brothers Band, Dies at 80

Dickey Betts, a honky-tonk hell raiser who, as a guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, traded fiery licks with Duane Allman in the band’s early-1970s heyday, and who went on to write some of the band’s most indelible songs, including its biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man,” died on Thursday morning at his home in Osprey, Fla. He was 80.

His death was announced on social media by his family. Mr. Betts’s manager David Spero said in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine that the cause was cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Despite not being an actual Allman brother — the band was led by Duane Allman, who achieved guitar-god status before he died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and Gregg Allman, the lead vocalist, who got an added flash of the limelight in 1975 when he married Cher — Mr. Betts was a guiding force in the group for decades and central to a sound that, along with the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, came to define Southern rock.

Although pigeonholed by some fans in the band’s early days as its “other” guitarist, Mr. Betts, whose solos on his Gibson Les Paul guitar seemed at times to scorch the fret board, proved a worthy sparring partner to Duane Allman, serving as a co-lead guitarist more than a sidekick.

With his chiseled facial features, Wild West mustache and gunfighter demeanor, Mr. Betts certainly looked the part of the star. And he played like one.

Still, balancing lead duties with a future legend proved a challenge. “It was hard not to try and have just this complete contest all the time, trying to outdo, because we were both playing lead,” Mr. Betts said in a 1981 interview. “The only way that can work is if somebody lays back just a little bit.”

“If I had that jealousy and got involved in it too much,” he said, “it just wouldn’t have worked. So in that sense it was kind of hard. But, hell, I learned more through those years than probably any other period of my playing career.”

A complete obituary will follow.

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