Dickey Betts ponders an Allman Brothers reunion and wonders what Duane would think of the music scene in 1989

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 31, 1989

By Steve Newton

Southern rock. The raw bite of the blues tempered by a free-wheelin’, down-home country feel. Gruff, unencumbered vocals and soaring, twin lead guitars. Songs about ramblin’ men, poison whiskey, and Saturday night specials. You have no choice: ya gotta like it.

Unfortunately, in the last days of the ’80s, real good Southern bands are a rare species. The onslaught of the video age has hindered bands that aren’t image-oriented. The early-to-mid 1970s heyday of Southern rock–when bands like the Allman Brothers, the Outlaws, and Lynyrd Skynyrd prospered–predated the era of MTV and its siblings. Some of the bands from the period are still slugging it out–like the Outlaws, who cruised through town recently, though hardly anyone noticed. Others have lost their lifeblood through personal tragedy: like Duane Allman’s motorcycle accident and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s airplane crash. Still other decent Southern rock bands from the late-70s have either faded from view (Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot) or betrayed their roots for airplay (.38 Special).

Times are definitely tough for fans of the genre, but thankfully there are still people like Dickey Betts carrying on the fine old tradition of his former band, the Allman Brothers. The ace guitarist brings his own band to the 86 Street Music Hall this Sunday (April 20) to work out on some old Allman classics and new tunes from his latest album, Pattern Disruptive.

At 45, Dickey Betts is a southern rock warhorse who’s been touring ever since he was a teen. The Florida-born axeman started off covering material by Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, and the Ventures, before working his way back to the music of country bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Willie McTell, and Big Bill Broonzy.

In the late ’60s, Betts was a member of Second Coming, a band that also included Allman Brother-to-be Berry Oakley, keyboardist Reese Wynans (now with Stevie Ray Vaughan), and Larry Rheinhardt (later of Iron Butterfly and Captain Beyond). One fateful 1969 night in Jacksonville, Florida, the Second Coming jammed with another local group called the Hourglass, which included guitarist Duane Allman and drummer Butch Trucks. Out of that came the core of the Allman Brothers Band, with Duane’s brother Gregg joining as lead vocalist.

The Allmans released their self-titled debut album in 1969, following it up with Idlewild South the next year and two double albums, At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach in 1971 and ’72. Soon after, the band was devastated by the motorcycle death of Duane Allman, the legendary lead and slide player considered by many to be one of the best pickers ever. But the band held together to produce the most successful album of its career, 1973’s Brothers & Sisters, and it was on that record that Betts came to prominence, writing and singing the hit single “Ramblin’ Man”, and penning the classic instrumental “Jessica”. The band released six more records after that, but none captured its essence.

In between the Allman Brothers projects, Dickey Betts released a country-ish solo album, Highway Call, and two albums with a band called Great Southern. His new album, the first in seven years, is one of his heaviest records ever. Mixed in with the blues-based boogie is a sweeping instrumental track titled “Duane’s Tune”, a tribute to his late friend. On the line from a motel in Ventura Beach, California, Betts explained what he thought “brother” Duane might be doing if he were still around today.

“He’d probably be pulling his hair out at some of the music that’s around,” chuckled Betts. “But most likely he’d be producing albums–he was always very strong in the studio. And hopefully he’d be playing with me once in a while.”

Although Betts took over the slide guitar duties in the Allman Brothers after Duane’s demise, he now has second guitarist Warren Haynes handling the slide parts on the new album. A relative newcomer to the Dickey Betts Band, Haynes was serving a stewardship with country singer David Allen Coe when he attracted Betts’ attention. The same five guys who played on Betts’ new album are in his touring band: along with Betts and Haynes, the band includes keyboardist/harpist Johnny Neel, bassist Marty Privette, and drummer Matt Abts–all veteran sessionmen.

Pattern Disruptive was recorded during May and June of last year at Butch Trucks’ Pegasus Studio in Tallahassee, Florida, and the old Allman Brothers drummer (who used to share percussion duties with Jai Johanny Johanson) got in a few licks on the sessions. Says Betts: “It would have looked kind of funny if we stayed there for two months and didn’t even let him play.”

Betts and Trucks also got together recently with Johanson and Gregg Allman to discuss the possibilities of an Allman Brothers reunion, though Betts claims that nothing definite has been decided. “I think it could be a good idea,” he says. “And it wouldn’t look like a desperate move, because both Gregg and I have pretty good solo albums out now.”

Whether the reunion happens or not, Allman Brothers fans will be happy to know that a six-album anthology of the band–containing an hour’s worth of previously unreleased material–is in the works. No doubt several of the tunes contained on that album will be performed by the Betts band on Sunday. Betts says that the current set list often includes his own Allman Brothers tunes such as “Blue Sky”, “Jessica”, and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, as well as such old blues rave-ups as “One Way Out” and “Statesboro Blues”.

And maybe, if you scream real loud for it, he’ll do “Ramblin’ Man” too.

To hear the audio of my interviews with Dickey Betts from 1991, 1992, and 2001 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
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
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
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
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
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
Gaye Delorme, 1990
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
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
Derek Trucks, 1998
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

…with hundreds more to come

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