The influence that Dickey Betts had on multiple generations of guitar players is profound. Although he was largely seen as the backup to legendary Allman Brothers Band founder Duane Allman, there was nothing about Betts’ role in the band that constituted backing up. Betts aimed to match Allman note for note, creating a twin lead guitar style that would become massively influential. Even when Allman died, Betts continued to craft twin lead guitar lines, preserving the iconic collaboration style that had evolved to give the Allman Brothers their signature sound.
Southern rock wouldn’t exist without the Allman Brothers, but neither would a large swath of jam bands, soul groups, and alternative rockers. Anyone with an appreciation for intricate lead lines could find something to obsess over in Betts’ guitar work, and that made his style transcendent beyond the genres that he was most comfortable working in.
That’s why experimental guitar king Dean Ween is such a fan. Over his own 30-plus-year career, Deaner has managed to play just about every style of music known to man, from Prince-indebted funk pop to traditional Bakersfield country to Ween’s signature brand of off-colour and off-the-wall gonzo alternative rock. But if you were to visit the debut LP of The Dean Ween Group, you’d see one song that pays specific tribute to Dickey Betts: the song ‘Dickey Betts’.
While sitting down with guitarist Matt Sweeney on the Noisey series ‘Guitar Moves’, Ween shared his once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting to meet Dickey Betts. One might expect that the two could share some tools of the trade with each other, but Ween’s meeting with Betts actually came before Deaner became a professional guitar player.
“I actually met Dickey Betts when I was like 12 years old,” Ween explained. “I played junior hockey at a really high level. We were on tour somewhere and he got into the elevator with my father and I. My father knew who he was.” Betts was a known hellraiser, even in the early 1980s when Ween is said to have encountered him. Betts certainly looked the part”.
“He was the scariest guy. It was like being in an elevator with Sonny Barger or something from the Hell’s Angels except worse,” Ween recalled. “He was green and pot-marked and didn’t look like he had slept for a long time.” Ween went on to gush about how Betts’ playing was influential on his own style, even going so far as to say that every single one of his guitar solos has ripped off either Betts’ lead lines in ‘Blue Sky’ or Eddie Hazel’s freakouts in Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’.
Check out Dean Ween talking about Dickey Betts while playing the song ‘Dickey Betts’ down below.