BY : TODD BEEBE
The Allman Brothers Band have rightfully become known as legendary innovators in many musical departments. Southern Rock, Blues Rock, Jam Bands, twin guitar harmonies incorporated into a Rock n Roll format. All of these and more can be traced back to the Allman’s. It’s safe to say if they didn’t invent the particular format, they certainly took it to another level and brought it to the public’s eye.
The Guitar chairs in the original lineup belonged to Duane Allman and Dickey Betts.
These days Betts performs with his own band, Great Southern. On August 3rd and 4th, Great Southern pulled into Chicago for a 2 night stand, setting the record straight for anyone questioning not only Dickey’s contributions, but his ability to still deliver the goods. I was there for both shows, and Mr. Betts pulled out all the stops on both nights.The 2 nights had a few different tunes being offered, with a lot of the classics being played at both.
Pedro Arevalo is one of the best Bass players on the scene today, make no mistake
Kicking things off both evenings was the classic instrumental “High Falls.” The audience was immediately reminded this was a band effort. Dickey gave fellow guitarists Andy Aledort and Son Duane Betts plenty of room to show their stuff. Betts wrote classic tunes with the original Allman Brothers Band, and with the later, regrouped 90’s version of the band. “Change My Way Of Living” was a bluesy offering he pulled out on the first night of shows, reminding us yet again, that his songwriting always played a huge role in the Allman Brothers. This version also showed Dickey’s strong vocal chops in fine form. Dickey’s “Blue Sky” surfaced at both shows, and both nights saw the fire come alive! For my money, this may have been THE song played at both shows. Dickey’s soloing elevated everyone in the room, reminding us just how many have borrowed the sweet southern tones to which he gave birth. Both nights shared this song, but both nights saw it played differently and amazingly.
The Willie Dixon classic “Hoochie Coochie Man” originally appeared on the Allman’s second album, “Idlewild South” with bassist Berry Oakley handling vocal duties. At show #1 the song featured bass man Pedro Arevalo singing. Pedro’s voice was in fine form, and to say the man can play is an understatement. Pedro Arevalo is one of the best bass players on the scene today, make no mistake. Locking in with dual drummers Kenny Crawley and Frankie Lombardi, the Great Southern rhythm section is to die for. Top notch playing all around.
Dickey and crew performed 2 sets both nights, and both nights also closed the first set with the classic instrumental “Jessica.” Easily one of the most popular, recognizable instrumentals of all time, the “Chicago” versions showcased keyboardist Mike Kach’s playing, giving us 2 nights of nice, extended solo work. Kach also handled vocals on a number of tunes including the classics “You Don’t Love Me,” and “One Way Out.” Between the classic vocals and head spinning guitar work going on in these tunes, the energy level almost seemed impossible to top. But now we must point to another classic, the Betts-penned instrumental, “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Being there for the 2 nights shows, I found it interesting that on night # 1, Andy Aledort took the other solo spot in the song, while on night # 2, Duane Betts did. Both nights of course showed Dickey Betts throwing a solo into the song, and both nights everyone in the band played this tune for all it was worth.
On August 3rd and 4th he stopped in Chicago to remind us just how great he still is
Every artist eventually has one tune that defines them, pretty much putting everything they’re about into one tune, making it instantly recognizable for the public to know who they are. For Dickey Betts that tune is “Ramblin’ Man.” He closed both nights with it, and it was a perfect closer for a perfect run of shows. “Ramblin’ Man” originally appeared on the Allman Brother’s “Brother’s and Sister’s” LP. Dickey once told a story of how Bob Dylan even told him “Man.. I should have written THAT song!” But while in Chicago, Dickey showed everyone that HE wrote it and countless others, creating great music and defining genres in the process.
A true artist always does something different with a song, yet keeps the structure recognizable enough for the general public to follow along. That’s exactly what happened both nights with Dickey Betts & Great Southern. Even though many of the same songs were played both nights, they were presented and approached completely differently each night. Dickey Betts is a living legend. A survivor who has influenced so many with his compositions, playing, vocals and spirit. On August 3rd and 4th he stopped in Chicago to remind us just how great he still is. Thanks Dickey!