While former President Jimmy Carter, 98, is in hospice care at his home, many are remembering the impact he had on the nation, the world and their own lives.
One of those people is Dickey Betts, a legendary rock star who believes Carter was a rock star in his own right.
A founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Betts served as lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the group – and is perhaps best known for writing and singing the hit “Ramblin’ Man.”
The Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famewho lives in Florida at the age of 78 and has retired from music, recalls meeting Carter when he was governor of Georgia.
“He was very fond of the Allman Brothers Band. In a way, we represent the state of Georgia musically for him. He came into the studio one night and we were all excited that he stopped by to hear our new record we were working on and he stopped by and really had fun,” Betts exclusively told Yahoo News in a phone interview.
Carter later came back and said he spoke to her manager about the possibility of having the band perform for his campaign – for the presidency.
“Well, that tickled us like crazy,” Betts said. “We said, ‘Wow, you know, a boy from Georgia is going to be elected president,’ we liked that idea. We saw him as governor so we knew what kind of guy he was. He’s brought some sunshine back to Georgia’s reputation, we’ve become a good place. We said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do some shows.'”
Betts believed Carter would be a great person to represent Georgia, a state that has long struggled with a reputation for racism and negative stereotypes. Carter won the 1976 Democratic nomination before winning the general election on November 2 of that year.
Presidential candidates often had well-known music for their rallies, and in some cases they had prominent musicians supporting them with concerts and, more recently, social media posts. But Carter, originally a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, took his affinity for music to the next level by teaming up with artists he respected.
A documentary by Mary Wharton, “Jimmy Carter: Rock ‘n’ Roll President‘, highlights how his famous friends like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett helped him get elected. In the film, he singles out one group in particular.
“The Allman Brothers helped me get into the White House by raising money when I didn’t have any,” says Carter.
The band’s impact was direct: they gave him a big boost with a benefit concert featured in the film, which they performed on November 25, 1975 at the Providence Civic Center in Rhode Island. Another scene shows Betts performing a solo country classic during a Capricorn Records picnic that Carter is attending.
Douglas Brinkley, who interviewed Carter and wrote: “The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White Housesaid their impact on his campaign was bigger than just a benefit concert — they helped him reach new audiences.
“The Allman Brothers were at the height of their fame. They were a very hot and kinetic band. Southern rock was in the zeitgeist with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top and big southern country acts,” Brinkley told Yahoo News.
The Allman Brothers Band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 and eventually settled in Macon, Georgia, a small town that has produced some of the most well-known R&B and rock legends.
The founding members were Duane Allman (slide guitar and lead guitar) and his brother Gregg (vocals, keyboards, songwriting), as well as Betts (lead guitar, vocals, songwriting), Berry Oakley (bass), Butch Trucks (drums) and “Jaimoe” Johanson (drums). In addition to classic southern rock, the group drew heavily on blues, jazz, and country.
“Jimmy Carter loved Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts because they were neighbors and they developed a lively camaraderie,” Brinkley said. “Carter had three sons at that time, and they were all Allman Brothers fanatics. No matter who you are or if you’re a dad, you want to show off to your kids, and the fact that Jimmy Carter was hanging out with the Allman Brothers was just plain cool.
“The great thing is that President Carter, who is from Sumter County, Georgia, got close to Phil Walden of Capricorn Records when he got into politics. Walden was one of Carter’s earliest supporters when he was running for governor and president.”
The group’s first two albums, The Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South, were unsuccessful nationally, but their 1971 live release At Fillmore East was a breakthrough.
Their 1973 studio release Brothers and Sisters featured Betts’ hit single Ramblin’ Man and the instrumental Jessica, both of which popularized the group. Internal turmoil, including substance abuse problems, soon overtook them and the group disbanded in 1976.
“Carter and Gregg Allman developed a special bond, and Carter respected them,” added Brinkley. “It was important because Gregg Allman had drinking and drug problems, but so did Jimmy Carter’s nephew. So Carter has always been very sympathetic to people going through alcohol and drug rehab, or never took offense or looked down on them. … Gregg Allman became like a friend and advisor to Carter, because President Carter, if he makes you friends, that’s a real thing.”
According to the Wall Street JournalGregg Allman told the band’s archivist Kirk West that “Jimmy Carter didn’t mind being seen with us at all, even though he was ridiculed by his opponents for hanging out with a bunch of hippie drug users.”
Carter returned to Macon for Gregg Allman’s funeral on June 3, 2017. The former frontman of the band, who was once married to Cher and had five children, died at the age of 69. This was the last time Carter and Betts saw each other.
“I can’t say enough good things about the man,” Betts said. “When Gregg died, Jimmy Carter came to his funeral. … This brother showed a lot of character towards me. Here he is, almost 90 years old or so, and one of the guys that helped him get president, he’s never forgotten it. He had a bodyguard there that I saw with him. He was a great guy.”
As much as Carter loved the “Ramblin’ Man,” Betts thought of him as a generous person who maintained his generosity well after the presidency.
“God, he’s done so much more after he was president, you know, with [Habitat for Humanity]. I’ve never heard of another president who did a lot of good work after his term ended, but he did it.”
Betts, who wishes “the best for the family,” said it’s kind of weird talking about someone as if they’ve already died, but said you don’t have to wait until someone dies to talk about the good, that he did.
“He’s one of those people I’m truly grateful to have met and I’m honored to be considered his friend. On my wall are some letters he wrote me and postcards, Christmas cards. You don’t get a Christmas card from the President, it’s kind of unusual, you know,” he said.
“He is 98 years old. I mean he had a good life. … I have fond memories of Jimmy Carter, and that’s about all I can say.”
Source : news.yahoo.com