We lost Gregg LeNoir Allman in 2017 at age 70, and we lost Dickie last week at age 80 – rest in peace. We won’t see anything like this again. (hat tip just some guy):

“Melissa” (sometimes called “Sweet Melissa”) is a song by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band, released in August 1972 as the second single from the group’s fourth album, Eat a Peach. The song was written by vocalist Gregg Allman in 1967, well before the founding of the group. Two demo versions from those years exist, including a version cut by the 31st of February, a band that featured Butch Trucks, the Allman Brothers’ later drummer. Allman sold the publishing rights later that year, but they were reacquired by manager Phil Walden in 1972.

The song’s title is frequently referred to incorrectly as “Sweet Melissa” due to the lyric being sung at the end of each of the first two choruses.

The version on Eat a Peach was recorded in tribute to Duane Allman, who considered the song among his brother’s best and a personal favorite. He died in a motorcycle accident six weeks before its most famous rendition was recorded.

Gregg Allman penned the song in late 1967. He had previously struggled to create any songs with substance, and “Melissa” was among the first that survived after nearly 300 attempts to write a song he deemed good enough. Staying at the Evergreen Motel in Pensacola, Florida, he picked up Duane’s guitar which was tuned to open E and immediately felt inspired by the natural tuning. Words came naturally, but he stumbled on the name of the love interest. The song’s namesake was almost settled as Delilah before Melissa came to Allman at a grocery store where he was buying milk late one night, as he told the story in his memoir, My Cross to Bear:

It was my turn to get the coffee and juice for everyone, and I went to this twenty-four-hour grocery store, one of the few in town. There were two people at the cash registers, but only one other customer besides myself. She was an older Spanish lady, wearing the colorful shawls, with her hair all stacked up on her head. And she had what seemed to be her granddaughter with her, who was at the age when kids discover they have legs that will run. She was jumping and dancing; she looked like a little puppet. I went around getting my stuff, and at one point she was the next aisle over, and I heard her little feet run all the way down the aisle. And the woman said, “No, wait, Melissa. Come back—don’t run away, Melissa!” I went, “Sweet Melissa.” I could’ve gone over there and kissed that woman. As a matter of fact, we came down and met each other at the end of the aisle, and I looked at her and said, “Thank you so much.” She probably went straight home and said, “I met a crazy man at the fucking grocery.”

Allman rushed home and incorporated the name into the partially completed song, later introducing it to his brother: “[I] played it for my brother and he said, ‘It’s pretty good—for a love song. It ain’t rock and roll that makes me move my ass.’ He could be tough that way.” The duo produced a demo recording of “Melissa” that later surfaced on One More Try, a compilation of outtakes released thirty years later. In 1968, the duo recorded it during a demo session with the 31st of February, a band that featured Butch Trucks, the Allman Brothers’ later drummer. That version is thought to have featured the debut recorded slide guitar performance from Duane Allman, and the entire session was later compiled into Duane & Greg Allman, released in 1972. Gregg Allman sold the publishing rights to “Melissa”, as well “God Rest His Soul” (a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.), to producer Steve Alaimo for $250 (equivalent to $2,190 in 2023) shortly thereafter. He had been tied up in Los Angeles, contractually bound by Liberty Records (who had previously issued albums by the Allmans’ first band, the Hour Glass), and used the money to buy an airplane ticket to fly back.

When Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, his brother performed the song at his funeral, as he had grown to like the song over the years. Gregg Allman commented that it “didn’t sit right” that he used one of his brother’s old guitars for the performance, but he nonetheless got through it; he called it “my brother’s favorite song that I ever wrote.” Both because he did not own the rights and found it “too soft” for the band’s repertoire, he never mentioned the song to the members of the Allman Brothers Band. Following Duane’s death, manager Phil Walden arranged to buy back the publishing rights in order to record the song for Eat a Peach, the band’s fourth album. Gregg brought it to the studio the day following his birthday and the band recorded it that afternoon at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. They felt it lacked a compelling instrumental backing element so guitarist Dickey Betts created the song’s lead guitar line.

Pin It on Pinterest