The Allman Betts Band plays ‘Americana with teeth,’ says Devon Allman

by Marty Lipp
devon allman interview


Devon Allman, left, and Duane Betts.

For 16 years, it didn’t look like Devon Allman would go into the family business, which was The Allman Brothers Band. And he still hasn’t quite done so, though he is extending the legacy co-created by his father, Gregg Allman.

After learning to play guitar and performing with a few bands, he co-founded The Allman Betts Band, which plays original songs as well as Allman Brothers classics and is bringing its current tour to Red Bank, Newton and Collingswood.

“I went my whole childhood just wanting to meet my dad,” said Devon, noting he first met his father at 16. (His mother, the late Shelley Kay Jefts, was divorced from Gregg Allman after a brief marriage, in 1972.) “I didn’t really listen to (The Allman Brothers Band). Maybe there was a chip on my shoulder down deep. You know, maybe it was like, ‘This guy doesn’t want to reach out to his kid — I don’t want to listen to your music,’ a little bit.

“We did meet up. Then it was kind of like this doorway opened where it’s like, ‘Hey, I want to know my dad. I want to know what he does.’ ”

After bonding over their love of music, the older Allman invited the younger to tour with the band in 1989. “It was like, ‘Wow, like these guys are like Jedi. This is the Jedi Council and, you know, how fortunate am I to be born into this?’ ”

The Allman Betts Band’s current tour includes three New Jersey shows.

While on the tour, he met and began a longtime bond with Duane Betts, the then-teenaged son of the late Dickey Betts, one of the other original members of The Allman Brothers Band.

Devon remembered Dickey Betts — who died last month after a battle with cancer — as “one of the best of all time. His lyrical phrasing on guitar is pretty unparalleled. There’s not many that can kind of have a song within a guitar solo like he does. He really takes you out there and gives you all three acts of the play: He’s perfect at the setup and then the drama and the resolution.

“At first Dickey was kind of distant and cold and didn’t have a whole lot to say to me. One night … it was a night off. We were in a piano bar in a Hilton, of all places, and my dad was kind of fumbling through a song. I sang the rest of the song and this guy out in the crowd popped up in a cowboy hat and it was Dickey. We finished the song and I walked away from the grand piano and Dickey ran over to me and said, ‘I didn’t know you could sing like that.’ And from that moment on, he was so incredibly kind to me, and sweet, and encouraging.”

Despite Devon’s late start with Gregg and his father’s struggles with drugs and alcohol, Devon cited him as a musical influence.

“He’s just one of those guys where it is effortless — the soul just kind of oozes out of him,” Devon said. “He just really had a way about him that was very, very special. And I think I learned that it’s a dedication: You dedicate yourself to the craft and to the journey of bringing music to the people.”

The cover of the Allman Betts Band album, “Down to the River.”

After playing together at a concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco that memorialized Gregg Allman, Devon and Duane began to perform together and discuss creating a band. They eventually released their debut album, Down to the River, in 2019, followed by Bless Your Heart, in 2020. Both releases were accompanied by dozens of tour dates.

Singer-guitarists Allman and Betts are currently joined in the group by bassist Justin Corban, drummers Alex Orbison and John Lum, keyboardist John Ginty, and guitarist Johnny Stachela. Despite the strong association with The Allman Brothers Band, The Allman Betts Band has its own identity, Devon said.

“It’s like Americana with teeth. It’s got a little bit of a bite to it, but there’s a lot going on. There’s country, there’s R&B, there’s rock. There’s a little early Stones attitude … We kind of don’t have any limits on that band. We can pull from any genre.”

Allman Betts, he said, “is trying to strike this beautiful balance” between themselves and The Allman Brothers Band. “We want to tip the hat, but we have two records out and we love that material. So it’s important for us to lean hard on our stuff, while also playing some of the dads’ stuff.

“If The Allman Betts Band hit the stage and didn’t play an Allman Brothers song, that’s weird. That’s where we come from. Now, if we hit the stage and only did Allman Brothers songs, I think that that would be weird, too.”

Devon said he has five solo projects completed but unreleased and there are no plans for a third Allman Betts album, “but I certainly wouldn’t count it out.” He added that the band does have a unique place in his heart.

“Out of all the projects I’ve done, Allman Betts Band does feel the most like home.”

The Allman Betts Band will perform at The Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.; The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, May 24 at 7:30 p.m.; and The Newton Theatre, June 9 at 8 p.m. J.D. Simo will open all three shows.


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


Custom Amount

Personal Info

Donation Total: $20.00

Leave a Comment

Sign up for our Newsletter