RIP Dickey Betts – Music Enthusiast – At the junction of rock, blues, R&B, jazz, pop,and soul

Some things are worth coming out of retirement for. This is an updated repost. 

Dickey Betts was born on December 12, 1943, in West Palm Beach, Florida. He hasn’t migrated too far from there and had been living in Sarasota, FL for a number of years. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Brian Johnson of AC/DC live there as well. (Bassist Duck Dunn and Moodies drummer Graeme Edge have passed on but also lived there. Now there’s a hell of a band right there.)

I thought of Dickey not only because of his passing but also because I’ve been learning his (and Duane’s) solos from At Fillmore East’s “Hot ‘Lanta.” Duane’s is all fire and brimstone; Dickey’s is a more melodic thing of beauty. Dickey was overshadowed by Duane but he was a great player. I recall that Duane said that he was the famous one but that Dickey was often the better one.

I had seen Dickey not only with the ABB but also solo once many years ago. He was going to tour in 2018 and I believe I even had tickets for that. But he had a stroke, later fell down, and then had to cancel the tour. Never did see him again.

This post is not meant to celebrate Dickey’s work in the Allmans as I have celebrated (and once traveled with) that band a lot and you can find my articles in the search bar. No, I am going to celebrate some of his solo work that you likely have never heard. There is a lot of good stuff and here’s a sample.

Dickey’s first solo album, Highway Call, was released in 1974. The Allmans were arguably at their height at this point before it all went to shit and up their noses. A roots music journal called No Depression called the album “exuberant,” writing that “Betts conjured a rollicking brew of bluegrass, western swing, and jazz.”

Chuck Leavell, SRV band’s Reese Wynans, and fiddler Vassar Clements are on this album. “Kissimmee Kid” is Vassar’s tune and he takes it all the way. Dickey is no one-trick pony and one of his favorite bands growing up was the swing-oriented Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Dickey later founded a group called Great Southern and their album Dickey Betts & Great Southern was released in 1977. The band included the late “Dangerous” Dan Toler on guitar and it brings us a nice shuffle with some of that two-guitar Allmans magic.

Toler later joined the Allmans for a couple of albums in the late 70s/early 80s till their next breakup and before their triumphant 1989 return. And even though she’s uncredited in Wikipedia, that is unquestionably Bonnie Bramlett singing with Dickey on “Nothing You Can Do.”

Slow blues you say? The Betts tune “Mr. Blues Man” is from Dickey’s 1978 album Atlanta’s Burning Down. It is a great gospel/blues tune with co-lead singing by either Clydie King or Sherlee Matthews, both of whom have had their own minor hits and sung with every possible musician on the face of the earth. (Bonnie’s in there too.)

I just got a kick out of this one. Who knew that Dickey and Rick Derringer were old pals. Derringer explains in the beginning how Dickey’s and The Jokers were a partial inspiration for “Rock ‘n Roll Hootchie Koo.” Recorded live at Dallas’ Lone Star Roadhouse.

From that same show is an instrumental called “Duane’s Tune.” Why he is celebrating guitarist Duane Eddy is anybody’s guess! 😁

A few years ago, Dickey released an album of Great Southern cuts from the 2000s. The 2-CD disc is called Dickey Betts & Great Southern Official Bootleg Vol. 1 and it is – with the shuffle, a Gregg-sounding singer and slide guitar – the most ABB-sounding track yet.

Here’s the Robert Johnson tune, “Steady Rolling Man.”

You didn’t think I was gonna finish a Dickey-fest without doing a version of the tune that the Wall Street Journal (!) called a “true national heirloom” did you? The song that the British car show Top Gear has used as its theme music since, well, forever?

From the Offical Bootleg album. – “Jessica.” Dickey’s daughter came in dancing to this when he was writing it. Effectively it’s a tribute to Django Reinhardt.

RIP, Dickey. If I believed in anything like heaven I’d say you were jamming with the Brothers. But since that’s likely horseshit we’ll just enjoy your music.

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