Southern Rock’s Family Values
Being the son or daughter of a famous musician always presents a challenge. You’ve grown up around music and musicians. It’s in your blood. Maybe it gives you a leg-up in the business and gets you noticed. But then again you have a famous parent and you’ll always be compared with him or her. That’s the dilemma that has faced the sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews of the Allman Brothers Band.
Some of them have decided to embrace their heritage and get up on stage.
DICKEY BETTS, now just one of two surviving original Allman Brothers Band members, will join us on the 2019 sailing of the Southern Rock Cruise. His son, Duane, will be with him, but Duane’s just one of Dickey’s four children, and all of them have varying degrees of involvement in music.
CHRISTY BETTS married Frank Hannon of the band Tesla. Frank’s last solo album, From One Place to Another, features an Allman Brothers song as well as Dickey’s son, Duane, on guitar. Out in California, Christy trains horses and raises their children, but doesn’t perform, at least not professionally.
KIM BETTS is a regular fixture at clubs around Sarasota-Manatee, Florida. She sings country music in a decidedly retro style. Dickey goes to see her when he can. Kim’s band, Gamble Creek, is well known locally, and she recently made a Christmas album. Asked by a local newspaper about Christmas with Dickey Betts, she said, “He loves Christmas music. His favorite song is ‘My Favorite Things.’ We sing it together. Me and Christy and him in the living room of his home in Osprey. He pulls out his guitar and we sing songs.” Now admit it, that’s not an image you were expecting! The Ramblin’ Man at home for Christmas.
“The biggest tip my dad has ever given me is always be honest,” says Kim. “Keep it honest. Keep it raw. Keep it real. The second you get away from your gut is the second people see right through it.”
JESSICA BETTS made her biggest contribution to Southern Rock music when she was one year old. She came into a room where Dickey was working up an instrumental. The band was living on a 432-acre farm in Juliette, Georgia, and, as Dickey explained later, he’d crafted the main melody of his piece but was becoming frustrated with the direction. That’s when Jessica crawled into the room and began bouncing around to the music. "I started playing along, trying to capture musically the way she looked bouncing around the room," he said. He named the song after her, and it became one of the standout features of a stellar, best-selling album, Brothers and Sisters, released in 1973, when Jessica was two years old. Later, a “live” recording of “Jessica” was included on a 1995 album, An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: Second Set, and won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 1996 Grammy awards show.
Dickey’s only son, DUANE BETTS, was, of course, named for Duane Allman, who’d died several years before Duane Betts was born. His mother, Paulette, was once a personal assistant to Cher, who, of course, was married for a time to Gregg Allman. This is starting to need a spreadsheet, but hang in with us.
Overawed for a time by his famous lineage, Duane thought about a career outside music, but then joined Backbone69 with the sons of Roy Orbison, label owner Lou Adler, and Berry Oakley. Eventually, Duane found his way into his father’s band, Great Southern.
After Dickey’s retirement, Duane played with a band called Dawes, but now Dickey’s back and Duane’s with him. “It’s just in his DNA to play music,” Duane told us. “It’s really gratifying to be able to play with my father again. He’s one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I’d listen to Live at the Fillmore East, and I’ve always known there was a really special quality to that music, but I’ve never thought of my dad as anything other than my dad. We all love each other so much, and he’s put together a really great troupe of musicians. It’s a cherished experience to play with him. He’s a great songwriter, a great guitarist, a great stylist, and a great innovator. I’m so happy he’s out there doing his thing, and so happy I get to do it with him.”
Dickey’s bass player Pedro Arevalo echoes that thought. “A lot of the big Allman Brothers hits were Dickey’s. Not everyone realizes this. People get to hear the man that wrote the songs playing them the way he wants you to hear them. It’s so great playing with him, breathing life into that music and keeping it going. It’s so great playing with someone you’ve admired your whole life. It’s a dream come true.”
Keyboardist Mike Kach adds, “There are moments of the night when you realize it’s DICKEY BETTS playing. There’s magic to it.”
Dickey is a down-to-earth pragmatic guy. The years have made him guarded on some subjects, but on the subject of playing with his son, he’s very open. “I’m just so proud of him,” Dickey told us. “He’s a really great player, and the women tell me he’s a great looking guy. I’ve gotten a real kick out of watching him develop.
“We’ve got a hell of band. Folks are gonna be happy they came to see us.”
Colin Escott © 2018