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Dickey Betts leaves a big gap in the local music scene

Written by on Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Osprey resident and Southern Rock legend died on April 18.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Apr. 19, 2024

Host: Dickey Betts passed away yesterday, at age 80. The guitarist and lead singer of Allman Brothers not just pushed Southern Rock to new horizons, but he was Florida bedrock. Born in West Palm Beach, he spent a good chunk of his life in the Sarasota area. And that made a huge difference in the local music scene. Our news team talked to Dana Lawrence, lead singer of Kettle of Fish.

[Audio fades into “Blue Sky”]

Johannes Werner: The iconic Blue Sky by the Allman Brothers, featuring Dickey Betts’ guitar and voice.

Kettle of Fish opened Dickey Betts concerts repeatedly. In one interview with the Herald-Tribune, Betts referred to the local band as “intimidating”. Lawrence says this was “pretty much my favorite compliment I’ve ever had from a musician.”

As a musician, Betts is leaving a global legacy. Dana Lawrence:

Dana Lawrence: It’s hard to fathom. It’s huge. It’s worldwide, and the fact that we’re here in Sarasota, really at the epicenter of all this, we feel it more. He helped create the Southern Rock genre. I mean, that says enough. The jam band situation, obviously, with Jerry Garcia and the Dead, who, he loved Jerry … it’s weird to think of him gone.

Oh, Southern Rock has morphed into a lot of things. You know, we’ve had Georgia Satellites, Black Crows, Blackberry Smoke. It still will keep going, but it will never be the same. The biggest thing is that they added rock-and-roll with country, with jazz, improv. Nobody really does that to that extent.

They took it to another level — I mean, no disrespect to Marshall Tucker or Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they took it to another level. He was a country guy, but he had an energy of rock-and-roll, but the fusion of jazz, to wander the way they do, just thinking of Ramblin Man as a country tune with a rock kind of beat, I guess.

And then you think of Liz Reed, or Jessica. They’re jazz compositions with touches of country music. It’s not something you could see in other bands. They were one of a kind.  

JW: But Betts also leaves a big hole in the local music scene. The Five O’Clock Club, across from Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Ace’s in Bradenton, the Blue Rooster are some of the local venues that flourished, in part to his presence. Kettle of Fish singer Dana Lawrence explains what the presence of someone of Betts’ stature meant to local musicians.

DL: One of the biggest things — and I’ve noticed this in not only Dickey, but having people like Steven Tyler and Joe Perry and Ray Davies and Jimmy Fadden from the Dirt Band — when you have these guys either vacationing or living here, they tend to get out and play, or they also pull from the music pool that we have locally. And Dickey picking up anyone from Frankie Lombardi and Pedro Arambolo, and it makes everybody better.  

You recognize the pinnacle and you strive for it. So yes, having him in town made this town a better music town. The first one obviously would be the Five O’Clock Club because he played there. He would just randomly sit in there once in a while. But his importance too, it just brought the level of music up to the point where places like the Blue Rooster or Aces, both gone now, brought in great music and just the level of music was higher. 

JW: Rest in Peace, Dickey.

[Audio fades out to “Blue Sky”]

For WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.



WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.