Born Richard Betts in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 12, 1945, Betts was raised in Bradenton, Florida. He began playing music at an early age, picking up ukulele when he was five and graduating to guitar by the time he was a teenager. By that point he expanded upon his country roots by playing rock & roll in a number of combos in Florida. In 1967, he and bassist Berry Oakley formed the Second Coming, a connection that would later lead him to the Allman Brothers Band.
Following the Second Coming's split, Oakley began jamming with Duane Allman in the nascent Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Soon, Betts was invited in, the group grew to six members, and the band relocated to Macon, Georgia, the headquarters of Phil Walden's Capricorn Records. The Allmans cut their debut in August of 1969 and it hit the stores in November, kicking off a hectic three years that helped establish the band as a major force in American music. Idlewild South, released in September 1970, peaked at 39 on the Billboard charts and contained Betts' original "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," but the real breakthrough was 1971's double live album At Fillmore East, which went to 13 after its July release. Tragically, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash on October 29, leaving the band without one of its two namesake leaders.
In 1989, the Allman Brothers Band celebrated their 20th anniversary by releasing the Dreams box set and reuniting for a tour. Everything went well enough for the band to record a new album with producer Tom Dowd. Seven Turns came out in 1990, inaugurating a long stable third act for the Allmans. Betts was there through a good portion of this phase, staying with the group until 2000, when Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe — the three other surviving original members — suspended Betts from the group. The guitarist filed a lawsuit and first revived the Dickey Betts Band, who released Let's Get Together in 2001, and then Great Southern, who released The Collectors #1 the following year. Betts continued to play live with Great Southern during the 2000s, but he took an extended break in the 2010s. He returned with the Dickey Betts Band in 2018, playing a series of shows beginning with the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pennsylvania. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine