Elizabeth Jones Reed Napier was 90-years old when she passed away in 1945. Despite all she must have accomplished during her long life, she’s famous because of a guitar player who was not quite two years old when she died.
The Allman Brothers Band formed in Jacksonville in 1969. The group included guitarist Dickey Betts, who was born in 1943.
Elizabeth rests in Macon, Georgia’s historic Rose Hill Cemetery. The quiet, rolling hills and terraced grave sites gave the budding songwriter Betts the solitude he needed. He said he found the Napier area a nice place to sit and write music.
Drummer Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) introduced Betts and the other members of The Allman Brothers Band to Miles Davis and his historic “Kind of Blue” album with its modal experimentations. Betts says he had Davis in mind when he wrote “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Tom Dowd, who produced the band’s first album, said he thought the Brothers were unknowingly influenced by Stephane Grapelli, the French violinist who played with gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Dowd says both Betts and guitarist Duane Allman unconsciously heard Grapelli while studying Reinhardt.
Betts used the name of Elizabeth Reed in the title but says the instrumental work was actually about a former girlfriend.
Elizabeth’s grave lies at the foot of Rose Hill, on the lowest road near the Ocmulgee River. Ironically, the gravesites of bandmembers Duane Allman and Berry Oakley lie only 144-steps to the south. The folks at the cemetery welcome your visit, but ask that you please be courteous, respect the departed and don’t litter.