Happy Birthday, Dickey Betts!
Forrest Richard “Dickey” Betts turns 71 years old today! In celebration, we chose a special excerpt from Scott B. Bomar’s book Southbound in which he introduces us all to Dickey:
When Gregg Allman returned to California to fulfill the Liberty Records contract, Duane kicked around Jacksonville jamming with local players who gathered in Willow Brook Park each Sunday. Butch Trucks was usually there, as was a Chicago-born bassist named Berry Oakley, who was a member of the Second Coming. He’d played lead guitar for a band called the Shaynes in high school, but got a break in 1965 when he joined Tommy Roe’s backing group, the Roemans, and relocated to New Port Richey, Florida. Roe, who is best known for his #1 pop hits “Sheila” and “Dizzy,” eventually fired Oakley. It was then that Berry went to live in Sarasota, where he met a guitarist named Forest Richard “Dickey” Betts.
Dickey Betts was born in West Palm Beach but moved to Sarasota with his family while still in elementary school. He was raised on the country music of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, and from an early age he was jamming with his father and uncles, all of whom were amateur musicians. “I always said when I was a kid,” Dickey recalled in an interview with Kristen West, “that I was going to play on the Grand Ole Opry.” As a teenager, however, Betts discovered the blues, and his interests turned toward black music. “I used to listen to Chuck Berry almost religiously,” he explained. When Dickey was sixteen he was offered a job playing with a group called Teen Beat in a sideshow with a traveling fair called the World of Mirth. “This guy would bring our band out,” Betts recounted, “and tell all these lies to the people about us. We were pretty good, though.”
At eighteen, Dickey joined an Indiana group called the Jokers that was later immortalized in the first verse of Rick Derringer’s hit “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” Dickey eventually began putting together his own groups and hitting the club circuit back in Florida. “I met Oakley at a club in Sarasota,” Betts remembered. “Pretty soon, Oakley was sitting in a lot, and he and I began to talk about putting something together.” They would go through several incarnations before establishing themselves in Jacksonville as the Second Coming. “Berry and I started with a band called the Soul Children, which later became the Blues Messengers,” Betts recalled, in a 2007 interview with Guitar World magazine. “Eventually Oakley and I . . . went to Tampa . . . and we really started coming up with some very interesting stuff. We were doing a lot of off-the-wall Jefferson Airplane stuff, stuff that was way out there.” They spent about a year in Tampa before moving on. “By 1967, ’68, we moved to Jacksonville, and our band had become the Second Coming, so named by a club owner because he thought Berry looked like Jesus Christ. . . . The club was called the Scene, and it was the only place in Jacksonville like that, and we were the only people in town with long hair. We’d drive somewhere, and people would throw shit at us!”