POLL: Vote for Gregg Allman’s Sweetest Version of “Melissa”

by Peter Wendel
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Gregg Allman [photo: Wikipedia]

It was Duane’s favorite song Gregg ever wrote – and for that simple reason, “Melissa” has come to carry serious weight, both in the form of elation and anguish.

After Duane Allman’s fatal motorcycle accident in October of 1971, younger brother Gregg would perform “Melissa” at the funeral. Reportedly, he barely got through it without breaking down.

It was a devastating blow to the Brotherhood. Their leader was dead. Drummer Butch Trucks: “It was unacceptable that he was gone. Unfathomable. I walked around stunned for weeks” (from One Way Out by Alan Paul).

Three months after the funeral, the remaining members of The Allman Brothers Band would record “Melissa” as a heart-wrenching tribute to their fallen brother. It is the definitive version that appears on Eat A Peach (1972).

Crossroads, seem to come and go, yeah
The gypsy flies from coast to coast
Knowing many, loving none
Bearing sorrow, having fun
But, back home he’ll always run
To sweet Melissa
Mmm, hmm


Assembled below are seven stunning performances of “Melissa” – from the original ABB version off 1972’s Eat A Peach to a live duet with Gregg’s old pal, Jackson Browne, to a 1968 demo that features Duane on lead guitar.

Enjoy the music – and please vote for your favorite version below.

MELISSA (Studio)
The 31st Of February
Demo (1968)

Here’s the earliest recording of “Melissa” – a song Gregg wrote in 1967. The Allman brothers – that is, Duane and Gregg – recorded this demo of the song (below) in 1968 with their band (at the time) The 31st Of February. It’s a real treat to hear Duane’s guitar work – reportedly his first recorded slide performance – woven into the fabric of “Melissa.” Remember, the ABB’s “original” version of the song from Eat A Peach (1972) was recorded three months after Duane’s tragic death. Dickey Betts plays the lead guitar line (not Duane). The final time we saw this

MELISSA (Studio)
The Allman Brothers Band
Eat A Peach (1972)

As a jumping off point, here’s the original ABB version from Eat A Peach. Out of all the songs Gregg wrote, “Melissa” was Duane’s personal favorite. Three months after Duane died in a tragic motorcycle accident, the band recorded this definitive rendition of “Melissa” in a deeply moving tribute to their fallen brother.

The Allman Brothers Band
MTV Unplugged (1990)

The Allman Brothers Band
An Evening With The Allman Brothers: First Set (1992)

This one features the powerhouse lineup that would endure through most of the ’90s – including guitarists Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes as well as Allen Woody on bass.

The Allman Brothers Band
The Dennis Miller Show (1992)

Amazing stuff!

Gregg Allman & Jackson Browne
All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman (2014)

Set up as a duet with friend Jackson Browne, this one showcases two of the greatest voices in rock music.

Gregg Allman
Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA (2015)

This one was recorded in January 2014 at the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA – the town where it all began for The Allman Brothers Band back in 1969.

Vote for your favorite version of "Melissa."

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Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.