Dickey Betts figures Duane Allman is playing “Dreams” in heaven with Hendrix and the guys from Skynyrd

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 8, 1991

By Steve Newton

Back in the halcyon days of the early ’70s, there was a choice collection of albums that one gang of air-guitar-playing Chilliwack Junior High rockheads used to foam over. There was Deep Purple’s Machine Head, J. Geils’ Full House, Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies, Foghat’s Energized, Nazareth’s Razamanaz, and the debuts by Queen, Kiss, Montrose, Aerosmith, and Blue Oyster Cult, to name a few.

But one record that will always hold a cherished place in my memories of vinyl is the Allman BrothersEat a Peach. Not only was it one of the first double-discs we laid our paws on, but it included one track, “Mountain Jam”, that went on for over half an hour! That tune got you halfway to Vancouver (on the 8-track, of course) when it came time to cruise in and catch Kiss at the Commodore or Nazareth at the Forum (remember the Forum?).

Eat a Peach was also a sad album, though, since it signalled the last work of slide-guitar hero Duane Allman, who died in a Macon, Georgia motorcycle crash at the age of 24. But his brother Gregg—along with guitarist Dickey Betts and percussionists Jai Jaimoe and Butch Trucks (what a great name)—are carrying on the Allman Brothers legacy with a new album, Shades of Two Worlds, and a tour that brings them to the Pacific Coliseum August 19.

So what does it take to keep the nucleus of a shattered band together after 22-some-odd years? Could it come down to the fact that Betts and the surviving Allman have gotten along so well after all the years? ’Fraid not.

“I don’t know that Gregg and I have gotten along so good over all the years,” drawls Betts, “but we haven’t gotten along so bad, either. A lotta times when you’re in the public light a little bit, as we are, if you do have a disagreement it gets blown out of proportion. But just like any family, you can’t work this tight and live together like we do without having a few ups and downs.

“But I think the longevity of the band is more due to the fact that we’re an honest band, and we’ve got strong, genuine roots, from good country music—which is not the greatest influence in our band, but you can hear it in there with ‘Ramblin’ Man’ and some of that stuff—and then very strong jazz influences that run throughout all the instrumental things. And then of course you can hear the urban blues and the traditional blues influence.”

When all the Allman Brothers’ various influences were combined, the sound they ended up with became known as “southern rock”, and the group became the flagship band of that movement, followed in the ’70s by bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Outlaws, Blackfoot, and Molly Hatchet.

“We were the first band that sounded like this,” says Betts, “but we weren’t the first band that could have sounded like this, I don’t think. The thing is, most bands from the south would either move to L.A. or move to New York to get started. In fact, Atlantic Records did everything they could to get us to move out of the South. They said we’d never break out of the South. They said, ‘Move these guys to Los Angeles, dress ’em up, get ’em out of those damn boots and blue jeans.’

“But the truth is, not one of us in the band really thought we would be that ultra-successful, because we were not commercial at all. We were purposely trying not to be commercial; we were just sayin’, ‘We’re gonna play music, and we’re gonna play for our people here, that we can look in the face and see, and we’re not gonna play for record executives and people that sell things.

“And that’s the way a lot of people aspired to think during that period of time, when it was really in vogue to be rebellious against the establishment and everything. And it still is. It’s just not practised as much as it should be now.”

While the Allman Brothers made it big—and the southern rock bands that formed in their wake enjoyed varying degrees of success—Betts allows that rough-edged, down-home type of music isn’t too well represented nowadays.

“But a lotta the things that were going on in the late ’60s and the early- to mid-’70s are starting to come back in vogue,” he says. “Even some of the metal bands now are startin’ to play more blues solos—that are lyrical, that you can follow, you know, instead of the real 90-miles-an-hour, five-million-notes-in-a-solo kinda thing. So the influence is spreading throughout the musical world.

“I mean, the Black Crowes love our band and will say that we’re one of their influences. And Raging Slab, they say, ‘Man, the Allman Brothers is our favourite band.’ So it’s nice to see the young guys comin’ up that appreciate the band.”

Before Betts signs off from his Florida home, it’s time to get a little sentimental and slide the 47-year-old rock vet a bit of a cosmic query, like: If Duane Allman were jamming up in heaven with the guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd, what tune would they be playing?

“Oooh, that’s a good one for you to ask,” says Betts. “I don’t know. But that’s a pleasant thought, and I’m sure that they are. Hendrix is right there with ’em, too. They’re probably playin’ ‘Dreams’—you know, that’s a nice drifty, heavenly kinda soundin’ song.”

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To hear the full audio of my 1991 interview with Dickey Betts, become a patron of the Newt on Patreon, where for $5 U.S. you can also hear my conversations with:

Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Mick Ronson, 1988
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

2 responses to “Dickey Betts figures Duane Allman is playing “Dreams” in heaven with Hendrix and the guys from Skynyrd

  1. That was a great interview and article. Thanks for sharing. Great words of wisdom from Dickey Betts. Also prayers going out for Gregg Allman.

  2. Love dickey and his family my husband and i traveled and worked with him in the late 70’s…..so love my memories and how Duane betts is playing his music and you can see the betts shining through. I will never forget as it is recorded Dickey calling David a few days before he passed.we love you. Hope to see again ..soon denise..

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