Musician Duane Betts On His Wild and Precious Life

It was an unassuming Tuesday Night in December.

A 70-something at the will call window shrieks, “Oh darlin’ I had ta try, my girlfriends and I used ta see ‘em at the armory down the road for 50 cents.”

A hipster at the merch table loads up on holiday gifts. “Flight was delayed in Charlotte. Thought I’d have to drive down. Why? Because Duane Betts is an insane guitar and I wasn’t going to miss this.”

Album cover art

Wild And Precious Life Album Cover

And three generations in the VIP lounge exemplify Southern Hospitality. “Big Jim saw The Brothers open up for Three Dog Night in the 60s, Young Jim played in a band with Duane in high school, and this is little Jimmy’s first concert. Say hi to the nice lady Jimmy. We want him to know that this music, this is home. It will be here for him long after we’re gone.”

Duane Betts steps up to the mic with a mischievous smile and says, “It’s good to be back in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida. You may know this one.”

From the back of the theater someone screams, “We know them all….!”

He can’t help but laugh, as he starts to sing, “Walk along the river, sweet lullaby…”

Everyone in the audience sings along, “You’re my blue sky you’re my sunny day, Lord you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way. Turn yooour loooove myyyy waaaay…”

Back Where It All Begins

“When I was really young, like five, my dad had a little guitar and he put it in my hands,” Betts explains, “The shapes of the chords and the stretching of the fingers and all of that just seemed too difficult, and really like something I didn’t want to do.”

In elementary school Duane declared himself a drummer and had garage bands throughout junior high. During rehearsals he remembers, “I started picking up the guitar. I noticed things coming to me more easily. I was learning by ear, I recognized the intervals, I knew the chord changes. So, then it just kind of developed from there.”

Bless your Heart; Duane and Dickey Betts in the early 1980s

Betts was 11 when the Allman Brothers reunited for their 20th anniversary tour. Duane went out on the road for a few weeks with his dad, Allman Brothers founding member Dickey Betts. The now forty-something lights up, “I fell in love with it. I love the music. I love the travel. I love the new venues, I love the sound of the sound check, the smell of the grass and walking around the venue before anybody’s there.”

On a subsequent tour “the kid” became a paid crew member, working as an assistant guitar tech. “I was learning a lot from being around everyone, and just hearing that music every night.” Duane remarks, “Warren [Haynes] wrote out a list of a bunch of records to go buy. I made 500 bucks a week and I would spend all of it at Tower Records on CDs.”

The immersive musical education included classic albums like, Blues Power  by Albert King, Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane, BB King Live at The Regal and more. Duane remembers, “I got really into listening to records and playing along with them. Everything from those blues and jazz records to all the cool contemporary music coming out of Seattle like Nirvana.”

One Way Out

“Well, the kind of tradition is, I mean, they like to get you out on stage to put you into the fire as soon as possible” Duane explains, “I kind of resisted it, I was kind of freaked out about it, I kind of put it off. In fact, I forgot my guitar at the hotel on purpose the first time I was supposed to sit in.”

The band were on a highway outside of Denver, when Dickey asked Duane, “You brought your guitar, right? You’re going to play with us tonight, right?” Duane responded, “Oh man, I forgot my guitar.” Duane retells,  “And he goes ‘Oh well, that’s okay, we have plenty of guitars’ and I go, ‘Oh yes, that’s right’ [defeated]. ‘I was thinking maybe I’ll get out of it if I don’t bring my guitar.”

Kid sitting on stage

Sketches of American Music; Duane Betts Sits On Stage Allman Brothers Tour 1989

Betts’ reluctant debut was met with continued mentorship. He reflects, “Like anything, anytime you’re nervous, and you do it and you don’t completely f*ck up, it’s an amazing feeling. And then I played a few nights later and I broke a string, and I was like beside myself. But that was a little bump in the road, it was pretty smooth after that.”

A year later Duane was thrown into a bigger fire at Woodstock ’94. The sixteen-year-old was pulled on stage to play on “The Same Thing” and “Soulshine.” The mud-soaked audience in Saugerties, NY, and everyone watching on MTV knew they would be seeing more of the emerging artist.

Wheels Turning

By age 19, Duane Betts was a professional touring musician.  He had a successful run with LA bands WhiteStarr and BackBone69. They cut records for Atlantic, opened for Kid Rock, and were part of reality TV’s infancy. Betts played on Letterman, and at festivals including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella. For more than a decade he was musical director of Great Southern and later toured with the Indy rock band Dawes.

Guys on beach

BackBone69 in The Bu Early Aughts – Public Domain


He got tangled up.

He got clean.

He made space for a vibrant new chapter of his life.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do

Lisa Hadley is a fashion designer who travels the world creating outerwear for mass brands, and bespoke pieces for private clientele. A friend bought her an astrology reading she put off for months, then one day on a whim she decided to book it.  The astrologer looked at Hadley’s birth chart and asserted, “You need to be with someone who is like a rockstar. A powerful guy who can handle your presence.”

The next day Lisa was picking up a few last-minute items for a dinner party she was hosting when, as Duane recalls, “We were grocery shopping. My friend started talking to her. He’s more out front, where I’m more shy. He asked for her number.” Lisa and her friend agreed to meet up with Duane and his friend. The two had a lot in common, hit it off and as Duane jokes, “Then I took her home one night and we watched Cops and that was it.”  She shakes her head smiling.


Lisa Hadley + Duane Betts Wedding via LH SM c. Kaelan Barowsky

On their most recent wedding anniversary Betts posted to Instagram, “I feel so blessed to have found you at just the right time.”  Lisa confirms lovingly, “He did.”

Her friends still joke, “We didn’t think the astrologer meant an aaaacctttuuuaaal rock star.”

Waiting On A Song

For 25 years New Yorkers marked the start of Spring by the Allman Brothers residency at the Beacon Theater. In this tradition a big party was thrown at Madison Square Garden to commemorate their 50th Anniversary (a year late). “The Brothers” played the hits. Their rendition of “No One to Run With” was said to be a religious experience for all who attended. A few days later stay-at-home orders swept the country. Duane, Lisa and their goldendoodle Willie settled into her adopted hometown.

For someone who has lived on tour busses for three decades it was a major change of pace. “Being in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was a really great thing that summer.  There’s just so much open space, there’s not a lot of people” Betts explains. “I really never had time before to get up every morning and have my coffee at the coffee table and pick up an acoustic. During that time, I wrote a bunch of songs.”

People smiling

Keep On Growing; L to R; Susan Tedeschi, Duane Betts, Derek Trucks

A long pandemic year later Duane and Lisa were at a birthday party in the Florida Keys when the tough-loving singer Susan Tedeschi urged, “Duane you need to do your own record. You should come do it in our studio.” Guitarist Derek Trucks jumped right in, “If you do that record, I’ll play on it.” Duane walked outside stunned, saying, “I don’t know what just happened.” His wise wife responded,” That’s a door that just opened for you.”

Tell Me What It Is You Plan To Do

In Tedeschi-Trucks’ Swamp Raga Recording Studio Duane Betts did some of his bravest work. His musical partner, guitarist Johnny Stachela states, “It was the perfect recording environment. We would roll in around 10am and just dive right into the creative process. We had so much fun. Every morning I would take a walk on the dock in the backyard to go check out a family of gators.”

They enlisted support from long-time collaborators and friends like bassist Berry Duane Oakley and keyboardist John Ginty. Stachela continues, “For the recording process we tracked the band live to capture the energy of the performance. Recording that way to analog tape is a lot like taking a photograph. It’s a snapshot in time.”


Man singing

Swamp Raga Bhavana – Duane Betts’ Own Voice

Before the release Duane took a minute to talk about the experience, “You know it’s exciting. I mean I’ve made records with the Allman Betts Band, and had an EP, but I felt like it was time to do something in my own voice. On my own shoulders. I’m proud of what we did, and I hope people like it.”

Duane Betts’ debut record, Wild and Precious Life was nicely reviewed by judicious music critics and agro Redditors alike. Songwriters and sentimentalists took to tracks like “Waiting on A Song” and “Forrest Lane,” while rock fans revered the guitar riffs in “Stare at the Sun” (with Derek Trucks) and “Cold Dark World” (with Marcus King). Artist and underdogs trended towards the foreboding, “Saints to Sinners”, while the yogis and ex-pats dug, “Sacred Ground” and “Under The Bali Moon.”

Of course, Angelenos embraced “Evergreen,” an ode to Betts’ mother Paulette Howell, loved locally for lighting up LA with her radiant smile. Betts explains, “That’s an emotional one. She brings so much joy to everyone’s life including ours.”

woman and baby in hammock

Evergreen Early Days; Duane  Betts + Paulette circa 1976

Universally admired is “Colors Fade.” Johnny Stachela recalls, “We were staying at Dickey’s house and I picked up his old Gibson acoustic and wrote the guitar melody and chord structure. It happened so fast and I knew it was special. I brought the song to the guys with a few lyrics and Stoll [Vaughn] finished it. Duane wrote the bridge. It just has a timeless quality to it.”

Betts remarks, “We wanted to have a kind of Gram [Parsons] and Emmylou [Harris] kind of vibe on ‘Colors Fade’, so we asked my good friend Nicki Bluhm, who has an amazing voice, and is just a great talent and a great person. We were very happy that she obliged.”

Circles In The Stars

A month or so later, Duane experienced an initiation. On the iconic stage where Johnny Cash, met his wife June Carter, singer Maggie Rose spoke to the crowd, “I am very honored to get to sing on this stage often, but I don’t usually get to bring a friend of mine out, but this man has become a friend and a brother, music runs through his veins, please welcome Mr. Duane Betts.”

Betts sang new fan favorite, “Circles in the Stars.” He shares, “The idea is that when you’re with somebody, and it doesn’t really matter where you’re at or what you’re doing, you’re in the perfect place. It’s about being with somebody that you love and you love spending time with.”

2 guys with guitars

It’s Better Than Gold; Duane + Johnny on The Opry Stage – Public Domain

He continues, “I wrote it for my wife, so it was really special for me to be able to play it for her on the Grand Old Opry Stage.”

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

“I mean, he’s family. We’re tied together by something much greater,” Betts states. “Through the music, through our fathers.”

Duane wasn’t the only kid on that 1990 Allman Brothers reunion tour. A teenage Devon Allman was on the road too. His dad Gregg Allman, was a founding member of the band known for singing the blues behind his Hammond b-3 organ.

Gregg joined the angels in 2017.  Devon admits, “After six months of grieving I realized I was denying myself of the power of healing through music and invited a bunch of friends to a comeback show.” When he found out the Fillmore West’s only available date was Gregg’s birthday, he knew it was meant to be.

two guys with guitars

People Can You Hear It, The Song Is In The Air; Devon Allman + Duane Betts


Allman asked Betts and his band to open the show. Devon reflects, “I think we were always intrigued to see if we would have organic chemistry together. Chemistry can’t be faked. Luckily we had it in spades with songwriting , singing together, etc …”

They did a couple of shows, and then they did a couple of tours, and soon the Allman Betts Band was born. Over time it evolved into an annual event called, The Allman Betts Family Revival. A Last-Waltz-esque offering inviting old friends, new family and raw talent to perform.

concert tickets

Winter at the Van Wezel

Now middle-age these bandleaders are throwing youngsters into their own fire. Devon smirks, “We are all on borrowed time. This isn’t our world. It’s our kids.  It is my responsibility to open the door for those that are next.  Rock and Roll needs it. It needs the young and the old, the male and female, the black and the white. Diversity and perpetuating the vibe is essential to its growth and longevity.”

On that unassuming Tuesday in December, everyone needed it.

Seven Turns On The Highway, Seven Rivers To Cross

It’s set break in Sarasota, Florida.

A regular at the White Buffalo holds the hand of her daughter who skips back from the bathroom lisping, “You’re my Blue Sky, you’re my sunny day.”

A tie-dyed troublemaker in the front row looks stage right and shouts, “We know you’re back there Dickey.” His cohort twirls a lammy yelping, “Happy 80th ‘Ole Boy, c’mon out.” They cackle like a couple of cartoon crows.

Yes, this is a hometown crowd for sure.

guy on stage with guitar in front of road

Seven Turns – Allman Betts Family Revival – 12.12.23 c. AVD

Duane Betts steps up to the mic and says, “This is a song of my father’s. It’s a Navajo legend, lesson kind of thing.” He closes his eyes, strums out a few chords and sings from the heart, “Seven turns on the highway, Seven rivers to cross, sometimes, you feel like you could fly away, sometimes, you get lost…

The beloved ballad is a Navajo philosophy shared by Stewart Etsitty, a roadman of the Native American Church and Betts Family friend for some 30+ years. He taught that we have seven big turns in our lifetime. Seven major choices that define the quality of our incarnation, and how we get to the next.

Stewart joined the spirit side in 2000, but Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Chairman Hon. Harvey Spoonmaker shares, “That’s our cycle of life. We’re always lookin’ seven generations ahead. We have ceremonies for the people who looked out for us, our grandparents, our parents, our aunts and uncles. They instilled in us our identity, who we are.”

All Our Relations; Duane’s Grandfather

He continues, “Through storytelling, through song, and through prayer we prepare the next generation for life. For their life. For what is expected of them as they get older. Because, they’ll also have their responsibilities. They’ll have to pass on some of these legacies too.”

Duane strums, “Seven turns on the highway, seven rivers to cross, sometimes we that we could fall away sometimes we get a lost…”

A millennial golf pro wearing a Patek Philippe puts his arms around a Publix Cashier who had to trade three shifts to be here this night. Her tired eyes sparkle as she sings, “Sometimes in the darkest night, you see the crossroads sign…”

A teenage couple in love and on too many mushrooms clutch each other, “Somebody’s calling your name, somebody’s waiting for you…”

Two out of the three Jims fight back tears, “Love is all that remains the same, that’s what it’s all comin to…”

A widower on a first date lets himself sob, “How in the world could you ever know, we’d ever meet again?”

Old college roommates savoring the rare night out sway, “Seven turns on the highway, seven rivers to cross, sometimes you feel like you could fly away, sometimes you get lost…”

Band on stage

“Happy Birthday To You…” Dickey Betts’ 80th. Allman Betts Family Revival – Van Wezel Theater – Sarasota, Florida 12.12.23 c. AVD

As the song comes to a close Dickey Betts walks onto the stage.

The Ramblin’ Man himself, Cameron Crowe’s muse for Almost Famous, in-part how Jimmy Carter got elected president.

Duane’s dad who met his mom at a Muddy Waters double-bill and named him after one of the greatest slide guitar players of all time.

Everyone in the Van Wezel Theater erupts into a round of “Happy Birthday to you.” Dickey Betts settles into a seat on the side of the stage — his wife Donna, daughter-in-law Lisa, daughters and family at his side.

The Road Goes On Forever

Duane, Devon, Johnny Stachela, John Ginty and the ensemble that makes up the Allman Betts Family Revival tear into a transcendent version of “Jessica.” The song for which thousands of babies, dogs, boats and bongs have been have been named.

The Allman Betts Family Revival play “Jessica” at the Van Wezel Theater in Sarasota Florida 12.12.23 c. AVD

Backstage there are cake and candles, hugs and high-fives. But the busses are packed and they gotta get going. Jacksonville tomorrow and Nashville two nights after that. The road goes on forever they say.

Out front the woman from the will call window squeezes my arm, “I told ya he would be here.”

The next morning the hipster with the merch texted,  “That’s why I would’ve driven down.”

A few weeks later an email comes in from Duane, “That was a magical night. Not only to celebrate dad’s 80th but to have him there on the sidelines was very, very special. I don’t think I will forget that night for the rest of my life.”

Neither will we.



Duane Betts and Dickey Betts c. Heather Nigra

Duane + Dickey Betts. White Buffalo Saloon 2017. c. Heather Nigra

“Love is all that remains the same,
that’s what it’s all coming’ to…”

Dickey Betts
(December 12, 1943-April 18, 2024)


To Learn more about Duane Betts check out Duane
Buy Wild and Precious life on Vinyl at
Stream on Spotify.
Learn more about Duane and Lisa Betts’
IG at @DuaneBetts

Author’s Notes & Thanks 

Sincerest thanks to everyone who contributed to this piece including; Muffy Lavens and Nicole Hancock at the Van Wezel Theater, Lisa Hadley-Betts, Emily Ginsberg/Big Hassle Media, Devon Allman, Johnny Stachela, Chris Brush /Smoking Monkey Photo,  Kevin Calabro/ Royal Potato Family, Francine Bartlett, Hon. Harvey Spoonmaker,  Nick + Vernoy Paolini.

Cover photo by Heather Nigro /Moxxiiphoto,


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Stay informed and inspired with the best of the week in Los Angeles, etc. and more ...

Stay informed & Inspired