Duane Betts, son of Allman Brothers Band founder Dickey Betts, has just released his first EP, called Sketches of American Music. A new video, for the song “Downtown Runaround” has been shot and is ready for release.
He recently toured with Devon Allman (Greg Allman’s son) as he continues to carve out his own musical niche and build on the legacy of legendary band.
Duane grew up sitting in with his dad on many occasions, as well as with The Allman Brothers. His father almost single-handily invented Southern Rock, so, not surprisingly, father and son share musical similarities.
Duane also faced a recent personal crisis when his 74-year-old dad suffered a minor stroke and, then, a nasty fall. A successful operation last week cleared the way for a complete recovery.
TheImproper caught up with Betts in Sarasota, Fla., for an exclusive interview.
IM: First off, how’s your dad?
Betts: He’s doing well. He gave us a good scare, but he is a tough guy. He will probably outlive us all. I call him “the Keith Richards of the south”. Regardless, we are grateful to have him around.
IM: Were some shows postponed? When will he get back on the road?
Betts: He had to postpone his upcoming dates in November. I didn’t have to postpone any of mine except the ones I was going to do with him in his band. As far as when he might come back, it’s way too soon to even talk about.
IM: Growing up in the Betts-household, we there a lot of pressure to play an instrument?
Betts: No, it came quite naturally actually. I wanted to play drums so my dad got me a kit.
IM: At what age did you realize what your father did?
Betts: I’d say pretty early on. There were always guitars and photos around and I was listening to the records around 5 or 6 years old. I knew my daddy was a guitar player.
IM: What did you listen too growing up?
Betts: It depends on what age bracket. Early on around 6 or 7 I was listening to everything from Run DMC to Van Halen to old blues records my dad would listen to around the house. Around 11 and 12 I went through a metal phase followed by a huge Nirvana/ Smashing Pumpkins phase. I still think Kurt Cobain is/was brilliant obviously. Billy Corgan as well. But,I also was listening John Coltrane, BB King, Al Green and a million other things by my early teens.
IM: The EP is terrific; we especially loved “Ride It Out.” Tell us a little about that track.
Betts: I wrote “Ride It Out” with my friend Stoll Vaughan. It’s basically a true story about searching for something and coming out of a not so great situation on the other side. It also has a Bonnie and Clyde sort of theme. Sketches Of American Music, to me is not a beginning but an extension. I grew up with a guitar in my hand yet at the same time I was surrounded by songs that were iconic. Music was always a focal point in my family and songwriting was the cornerstone. I have witnessed in many situations, playing with my father or the countless others, that the song is what ignites the connection.
IM: The track produced by Steve Cropper, “When We Get Home” is fantastic too. Tell us a bit about that session.
Betts: Steve was amazing to work with and I was fortunate to have him be a part of this track. We recorded in Nashville and his expertise and ideas on the drums and bass were really amazing. I later finished up recording the vocals in LA.
IM: Marc Ford produced “Think I’m Doing Well,” tell us a bit about that.
Betts: Marc is a really good friend and one of my favorite guitar players. He has a great musical instinct. We also recorded this at the Compound in LA. The cool story about this track is that Marc jumped on the drums to show us what he was hearing and it was so good, we made him stay on the kit. So for all I know, this is his recording debut on drums.
IM: Devon Allman. How long have you both known each other?
Betts: Devon and I met on the ABB 1989 Dreams Reunion Tour. We spent some time getting to know each other and we been friends ever since.
IM: Have you played together before this tour?
Betts: We have shared stages sitting in with each other over the years, but we have never played consistently like this before. It has been such a pleasure really getting to know him better and making music with him on a nightly basis. I am excited for what the future brings.
IM: What are you plans for after the tour?
Betts: I want to keep writing and recording. Whether it be for a solo record or another project, perhaps with Devon, I want to keep the momentum going. I feel like I have some great work ahead of me.
IM: Tell us about the new video for “Downtown Runaround”
Betts: The video was directed by Todd Labrowski. I met him several years ago when he had me write a song for a movie he was doing with Steve Earle called A World Made Straight. We stayed in touch and on my tour this summer, he came to a show and we talked about collaborating. I had a few days off from tour and wanted to spend some time with my dad, so we decided to shoot some it in Sarasota, Florida, which was where I grew up.
IM: What else do you listen too now?
Betts: Lately I’ve been listening to a ton of Dire Straits. Love Mark Knopfler. Also, I’ve been listening to Blake Mills. He’s great. I’m always listening to a wide variety of music. I think it’s important to have your “go to’s” but also to always be exploring and discovering.