Dickey Betts, rock 'n' roll entrepreneur
Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts has lived a life that seems
stereotypically "Behind The Music." Betts, along with
Duane and Gregg Allman, drove the band, writing some of its most
memorable songs in the process, including "Ramblin' Man,"
"Blue Sky," "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," and
He endured the tragic deaths of
great friends Duane Allman and Berry Oakley almost one year apart.
He endured the drug-induced trials of Gregg Allman, the breakup
and regeneration of the band, addictions of his own and changes
in the music industry landscape that saw Southern rock and the Allman
Brothers fall in and out of favor. And then finally, several years
back, he endured a vicious feud with Gregg Allman during which Allman
accused Betts of being a drug addict and unceremoniously kicked
him out of the band. While it seemed a not completely surprising
tirade considering the history of the Brothers and Gregg Allman,
the split was permanent, and marked the end of both Betts's tenure
with the Allman Brothers, and his longtime friendship with Allman.
But with all the ins and outs the Allman Brothers
had experienced over the years, Betts was not unaccustomed to going
it alone. He reformed his early band, Great Southern, and has settled
into the role of band leader. The risk is all his: He dictates the
musical direction and finances the band.
With radio and record companies focused on teenie-bop
pop, old-style musicians such as Betts have found little support
from the conglomerates, and so they have been turning to do-it-yourself
solutions. Dickey Betts and Great Southern's latest album, "The
Collectors #1," is an all-acoustic record that Betts recorded,
released and distributed himself. It's for sale exclusively at his
concerts and on the Internet at www.dickeybetts.com.
The record is a combination of many of Betts's favorite styles,
including Western swing jazz and Delta blues. While releasing and
distributing it himself dampens the prospects for sales, it allows
him the freedom of creating the type of record he wants without
letting marketing barriers impede his creativity.
Bankrate spoke with Betts about the money side of
rock 'n' roll.
Bankrate: Some rock
stars who have been around awhile saved their money, while others
spent it all. How are you set for funds these days?
Dickey Betts: When
we went through the period where we had all the trouble with management
with Phil Walden (the Allmans' former manager and owner of their
label, Capricorn Records), and we all ended up broke. We were all
back to square one. I took that to court with an audit and won a
million dollars from Phil Walden that he owed me. Unfortunately,
Phil filed bankruptcy and I didn't get any of it. So I had to work
my way back up again. I became financially successful again and
remained that way up to now. I don't want to sound pompous, but
I wouldn't have to work if I didn't want to right now.
Bankrate: Are you an
Dickey Betts: I'm involved
in the stock market, but not personally -- I have a team that does
it. I have my safe players in New York, Neuberger Berman, and then
I have some high-risk stuff with Robertson Stephens that does emerging
growth things. Of course, everybody's seen some trouble in that.
I did pretty good with the high-risk stuff, though. I only lost
about 30 percent.
Bankrate: Any particular
stocks that did really well for you?
Dickey Betts: I don't
follow the particular stocks. Jim Callahan with Robertson Stephens
in San Francisco does the emerging growth high risk, most of it
tech stocks. I hung around with him for a couple of years, played
golf with him a few times, said this guy doesn't seem to have any
great vices or anything. He's a pretty solid guy. So I just turned
over a certain amount of money to him. And that's the way I do things,
even with my band. I don't just come in and tell everybody what
to do. Even though I am the leader of this band, and am responsible
for its survival financially, I'm still a team player kind of guy.
I look at it like a baseball team. You can't play all the positions.
You have to get people who are heavy hitters in other areas, like
Danny Toler (his guitarist). You can't do it all. And that's what
I do with the stock market. I've got Neuberger Berman, who's been
in business 75 years, and I don't feel like I need to tell them
how to do business. They've done well for me over the years.
Bankrate: What is your
greatest source of income these days?
Dickey Betts: I would
say right now it's probably half publishing and songwriting money,
and half road money. But when I was with the Brothers, I would say
at least 3/4 was road money. That's merchandising, and actual receipts
from what you get paid to play. For my last tour, I bought $30,000
worth of T-shirts. So money goes out, and then money comes back.
I'm trying to keep all my guys working. I've got 15 guys on the
road working. A seven-piece band, and six road crew people, and
my wife, and two truck drivers. It's a nice small business.
Bankrate: And you're
Dickey Betts: Yup.