|Single by The Allman Brothers Band|
|from the album Eat a Peach|
|A-side||"Ain't Wastin' Time No More"|
|Recorded||December 9, 1971 at Criteria Studios, Miami, Florida|
|Genre||Southern rock, Blues rock|
|The Allman Brothers Band singles chronology|
"Melissa" is a song by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band, released in August 1972 as the second single from the group's third studio album, Eat a Peach. The song was written by vocalist Gregg Allman, but dates far beyond the group's inception. It was first written in 1967, and two demo versions from those years exists, 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 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 three months before its most famous rendition was recorded.
"Melissa" originated long before it was recorded by the Allman Brothers; the song dates to late 1967, when Gregg Allman penned the song on his brother Duane's guitar. He had previously struggled to create any songs with substance, and "Melissa" was among the first that survived after he tossed nearly 300 attempts to write a song he deemed good enough. Staying in a room at the Evergreen Motel in Pensacola, Florida, he picked up Duane's guitar (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, of all places, a grocery store where he was buying milk late one night. A Spanish woman walked in with her daughter, who promptly ran off down one aisle, causing her mother to call out, "Oh, Melissa, come back!"
He later elaborated on the moment 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 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 [butt].' 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 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 as the Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute "God Rest His Soul", to producer Steve Alaimo for $250 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 grew to like the song over the years. Allman commented that it "didn’t sit right with [him]" that he used his one of his brother's old guitars for the performance, but he nonetheless got through it; he prefaced it by calling 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. But 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 third studio album. The band felt it lacked a compelling instrumental backing element, and guitarist Dickey Betts created the song’s lead guitar line. He brought it to the studio the day following Allman's birthday, and they recorded it that afternoon at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida.
In popular culture
"Melissa" has enjoyed renewed popularity in the 2000s due to its feature in a commercial for Cingular/AT&T Wireless cell phone company and the use of it in a scene in Brokeback Mountain. It was prominently featured in the 2005 film House of D, performed by both the Allman Brothers and Erykah Badu.
- Paul, Alan (2014). One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250040497.
- Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear. William Morrow. ISBN 978-0062112033.