Song Of The Day 8/30/2014: Dickey Betts & Great Southern - "Bougainvillea"



Southern Rock Week: Forrest Richard Betts was a charter member of the Allman Brothers Band, forming one of the most bruising twin lead guitar units in the universe with Duane Allman. After Duane's death in 1971 Betts and Gregg Allman assumed command of the group, and Betts only went on to write and sing their signature song "Ramblin' Man." During one of the Allmans' regularly occurring indefinite hiatuses Betts formed Great Southern.

At the time, according to All-Music Guide, Great Southern's debut album was called out for its "slick" feel. Hearing it today, I wonder just how low the tolerance level was for "slickness" in the '70s. I'm thinking it might have been a euphemism for R&B, which doesn't really need a euphemism, does it? There's a rhythmic change-up, that's for certain. A couple of soul ballads somebody like Rick Danko might have sung. But there's still dizzying lead lines, especially on stuff like "Nothing You Can Do." And country-rock certainly got way slicker than this in the hands of manicurists and tanning booth operators. Betts and the Allmans could still play three-day versions of "Whipping Post" if they wanted to and nobody would leave the venue.

"Bougainvillea" is the final song on Great Southern's self-titled debut album. Notably collaborating with Betts on songwriting chores on this track is one "D. Johnson," who turns out to be Don Johnson, he of the salmon dress shirts and off-white sport jackets of Miami Vice and future solo artist in his own right. Or wrong. But that's not "Bougainvillea's" calling card. That would be the extended Betts solo in the middle third of the song, which explains by its lonesome almost everything you need to know about Southern rock music, if you only had seven minutes to spend on the subject. Even these last six days haven't felt like enough.

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