Learn to Play: Jeff Massey Teaches Dickey Betts' Lead Guitar Technique

Dickey Betts is a highly celebrated vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist who, through his work with the Allman Brothers Band, had a major hand in creating what we know today as southern rock. As the original pioneers of the genre, the Allman Brothers relied heavily on both Dickey and Duane Allman’s guitar work.

Dickey wrote some of the band’s most memorable tunes, including "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed," "Jessica," and "Ramblin’ Man." In the early 1970s, after Duane's passing, Dickey continued to carry the guitar torch within the band and also assumed a bigger role as a bandleader and vocalist. Betts even took over slide guitar duties for a bit while keeping the Allmans machine going.

After his period as the lone guitarist in the Allmans camp, Dickey played alongside a variety of Duane replacements, which included the extraordinary guitar talents of Warren Haynes during the potent 1990s "rebirth" era. Over the years, Betts also managed to make a solo record and some great albums with his side project, Great Southern.

Dickey’s ingenious use of melody within a song and in his lead guitar work has always been an inspiration to me. Betts effortlessly displays the ability to shift from blues-, jazz-, and country-inspired phrases within a piece of music, utilizing both major and minor scale patterns to create something memorable to the ears. I've borrowed quite a bit from Mr. Betts over the years and try to incorporate his sense of melody into my own playing.

The Allman Brothers Band - "Whipping Post" (Live at Fillmore East, 1970)

I suggest picking up the Allman Brothers live recordings from the Fillmore East. Check out his flowing, minor guitar lines in “Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post.” And listen to some post-Duane recordings where Betts really expanded his country side, adding a bit of twang and Jerry Reed-style lead playing.

If you’re playing a guitar with humbucker pickups, experiment with the tone controls. Dickey is a master of pulling a variety of sounds out of a Gibson Les Paul through his use of tone controls and a very loud vintage Marshall. Even if you don't have a 1960s-style Marshall amp at full volume available to you, Dickey’s tone can be mimicked with a decent amp and a good drive pedal at reasonable volumes as well. Have fun experimenting, and make these licks your own!


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