“Derek Trucks said my dad was one of those players that’s not afraid to stare directly into the sun – it was a no-brainer to have him on a song”: How Duane Betts combined A-list guest spots, Radiohead and Allman Brothers on his solo debut

Duane Betts
(Image credit: Dylan Jon Wade Cox)

As the only son of Dickey Betts and the namesake of Duane Allman, his father’s legendary foil in the Allman Brothers Band, Duane Betts has spent the past two decades honing his craft between the massive legacy he inherited and the contemporary music he grew up on.

Now, with his debut solo album, Wild & Precious Life, Betts reckons with his father’s legacy and makes considerable strides toward creating his own. “The idea was to take the kind of playing I come from and intertwine it with some cool songs that have a modern kind of flavor to them,” he says. “I think we accomplished that.”

Betts cut his teeth playing alongside his father in his backing band, Great Southern, and later toured as a member of Dawes and co-founded the Allman Betts Band with Devon Allman. 

For his solo debut, he recruited longtime sidemen Johnny Stachela and bassist Berry Duane Oakley and recorded at Swamp Raga Studio, the Jacksonville haunt of friends Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.

Trucks makes an appearance on the jammy Stare at the Sun, a 6/8-meter tour de force named in reference to the elder Betts that finds the trio of guitar slingers stacking licks toward the song’s crescendo. “Derek said something about my dad being one of those players that’s not afraid to stare directly into the sun,” he says. “It was a no-brainer to have Derek on that song.”

The spotlight shifts to a guest turn by Marcus King on Cold Dark World, but one of the album’s most unexpected moments arrives on the instrumental Under the Bali Moon. Arranged by drummer Tyler Greenwell – and every bit as adventurous and exotic as its title suggests – the song flits from light to dark and back again, as Betts and Stachela weave dreamy, Allmans-esque guitar harmonies around a taut rhythm.

“I love stuff from the early ’90s when I was a teenager, like Jeff Buckley, and it has a little bit of that,” he says. “The drumbeat could be something Radiohead would do. It has a little bit of the Allman Brothers influence, but it definitely has this other really mysterious, beautiful, dark energy entangled in it that’s unique to anything we’ve done.”

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Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs, a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.