Posted on 04.20.2024

Goodbye, Ramblin’ Man - Soapbox Jr.

“When it’s time for leavin’, I hope you’ll understand that I was born a Ramblin’ Man” - Dickey Betts 1973

"People down in Georgia come from near and far to hear Richard Betts pickin’ on that red guitar” – Charlie Daniels 1974

Shortly after Dad’s funeral in July of 2020, I took to my computer to write a series of Soapbox Jr.’s – as to differentiate from Dad’s original opinion pieces - to write down the events of that week in order to chronicle everything that happened from the morning of July 6 to his funeral on July 10.

After I finished that Soapbox Jr. series, I kept on writing pretty regularly, and one of those pieces, “A Dying Breed” was inspired by seeing an old friend, Doug Gray from The Marshall Tucker Band, at Dad’s funeral, and the realization that now with Dad having gone home, there were just a few of those original Southern rock road dogs still with us.

Since 2020, we’ve lost ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington and as of April 18, 2024, one more joins the heavenly band, Forrest Richard “Dickey” Betts, one of the founders of not only The Allman Brothers Band, but one of the true founders of the Southern rock sound.

Dad should really be the one writing something about Dickey’s passing, but he’s busy reuniting with an old friend at the moment, so I will try my best in his absence, and with my limited familiarity of Dickey.

Without The Allman Brothers Band, there most likely would not have been a Southern rock movement in the early 1970s, or at the very least, it would have looked – and sounded - completely different.

As I have said in a project that I’m working on, Dad always said that Southern rock music is a collage of styles rather than a specific style of music, with bands like Marshall Tucker having a heavy country music influence and Skynyrd being a powerhouse rock band.

Dad noted that The Allman Brothers were essentially a killer blues band that added harmonized twin lead rock guitar parts from both Dickey and Duane Allman, an innovation that led to a style that most of the prominent Southern rock bands would emulate and incorporate into their own sounds. Dickey and Duane’s guitars blended together with beautifully unmatched precision. 

Songs like “Whipping Post,” “Blue Sky” and “Ramblin’ Man” all showcased this trailblazing sound, but where the duo’s guitar harmonies really shined were on instrumentals like “Jessica” and the unforgettable “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” which ooze with unparalleled precision and flair, it’s almost as if their minds and instruments were one.

Dickey, Gregg & Duane Allman, bass player Berry Oakley and drummers Jaimoe (now the only surviving original member) and Butch Trucks would be the foundation and the standards to which all Southern rock bands would strive to match or surpass. 

They were the gold standard.

Their influence showed up in pretty much every band that followed, for example, Dad often used twin lead guitars and even had two drummers from 1974 up to 1983. Some of the early CDB stuff is heavily influenced by the Allmans, songs like “Whiskey,” “Birmingham Blues” and “No Place to Go” all have the Allmans musical DNA at their core.

But Dad wasn’t just influenced by the Allmans and Dickey, nor were they just musical contemporaries, they were friends and road brothers.

When Dad wanted to do two live tracks on the CDB’s 1974 album ‘Fire on the Mountain,’ they booked a show at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium which they called the Volunteer Jam. Dad had invited Toy Caldwell, Jerry Eubanks and Paul Riddle from The Marshall Tucker Band and Dickey to come and Jam after the CDB finished playing their set, not only did Dickey come to jam at the Jam, he also played the Dobro solo on “Long Haired Country Boy” from ‘Fire on the Mountain.”

Dickey and/or the Allmans made multiple appearances at the Volunteer Jams over the years, including memorable sets at Jam VI and Jam XII.

Dickey was in Nashville to help induct Dad into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009. Dickey was feeling no pain that night, the two old friends and road brothers tore up the Allman’s classic “Southbound” with the CDB at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville. I think the venue’s massive pipe organ is still shaking 15 years later.

They even wore the same color shirt, a light blue making Dickey look like Dad’s own “Mini-me” on stage.

The last time I remember seeing Dickey was in 2014.

Gibson was releasing a very special guitar called the Southern Rock Tribute Les Paul, which was inspired by the 1959 Les Paul red sunburst which so many Southern rock bands played, Gary Rossington, Dad and Dickey included. 

The guitars were made with the same care and precision that the originals had, and the sound and feel was reminiscent of those older models, with the only major difference in the paint job. Under the pickup is an airbrushed red heart where the originals just had the yellow/orange color that would fade to red on the edges.

Dad loved this throwback guitar and had several of them.

There was a panel discussion and showcase at Nashville’s 12th & Porter nightclub that Gary and Rickey Medlocke from Skynyrd, Dad and Dickey attended along with non-guitar player, Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie who all performed that evening and signed the initial batch of the commemorative guitars.

There was a lot of discussion about the old days and how the original ’59 red sunburst helped define the genre.

I’m sure Dad and Dickey saw each other off and on after that, and Dickey was doing his own band after he left the Allmans for the last time, but sadly, I don’t know enough about those visits.

All I know is that we are getting close to losing all of our Southern rock founders and innovators. 

Thankfully we have bands like Blackberry Smoke, and the progeny of two Allman Brothers founders, Duane Betts and Devon Allman who are touring as The Allman Betts Band, and a few others who are helping to keep the flame alive.

There are a couple of other projects that we are in the process of developing that will help keep that flame going for as long as possible, and in some pretty surprising ways.

I’m going to end this with a line from one of my favorite songs, that you’ve never heard – although I hope to change that very soon – that MTB founder George McCorkle and co-writer D. Scott Miller wrote when Toy Caldwell passed away in 1993:

“There’s another Free Bird in the Southern sky

Can’t You See he’s Searchin’ For a Rainbow

The Sky is Cryin’ Can’t you hear them guitars moan

‘Cause another Midnight Rider made the journey home”

And now the Ramblin’ Man has made the journey home.

Prayers to Dickey’s wife Donna, and to Duane, Dickey’s friends and his many many fans, 

Rest in peace, Richard Betts.

What do you think?

Let’s all make the day count!

Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.

God Bless America!

#SonyReleaseHonkyTonkAve

#BenghaziAintGoingAway #End22

- Charlie Daniels Jr.

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