This was Duane Allman’s favorite song that his brother Gregg wrote….but it was also one of the first songs the band recorded without Duane Allman, who died in a motorcycle accident about four months before it was released. Eat A Peach was dedicated to Duane. At Duane Allman’s funeral in 1971, Gregg Allman played this song on one of Duane’s old guitars. At the service, Gregg said, “This was my brother’s favorite song that I ever wrote.”
The song peaked at #86 in the Billboard 100 in 1972. The song didn’t chart too well but it remains a staple of classic radio.
Gregg actually taught Duane how to play the guitar, who quickly became a virtuoso. They played together until 1969 when Duane assembled what would become the Allman Brothers Band. Gregg was reluctant to sign on having already been accepted into college to be a dental surgeon. He soon did and they played together until Duane’s death in 1971.
Gregg Allman spoke at length about this song in an interview with the San Luis Obispo (California) Tribune on November 30, 2006: “I wrote that song in 1967 in a place called the Evergreen Hotel in Pensacola, Florida. By that time I got so sick of playing other people’s material that I just sat down and said, ‘OK, here we go. One, two, three – we’re going to try to write songs.’ And about 200 songs later – much garbage to take out – I wrote this song called ‘Melissa.’ And I had everything but the title. I thought (referring to lyrics): ‘But back home, we always run… to sweet Barbara’ – no. Diane…? We always run… to sweet Bertha.’ No, so I just kind of put it away for a while.
So one night I was in the grocery store – it was my turn to go get the tea, the coffee, the sugar and all that other s–t… and there was this Spanish lady there and she had this little toddler with her – this little girl. And I’m sitting there, getting a few things and what have you. And this little girl takes off, running down the aisle. And the lady yells, Oh, Melissa! Melissa, come back, Melissa!’ And I went, ‘Oh – that’s it.’ I forgot about half the stuff I went for, I went back home and, man, it was finished, only I couldn’t really tell if it was worth a damn or not because I’d written so many bad ones. So I didn’t really show it to anybody for about a year. And then I was the last one to get to Jacksonville – I was the last one to join the band that became the Allman Brothers. And my brother sometimes late at night after dinner, he’d say, ‘Man, go get your guitar and play me that song – that song about that girl.’ And I’d play it for him every now and then.
After my brother’s accident, we had three vinyl sides done of Peach, so I thought well we’ll do that, and then on the way down there I wrote “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” I wrote that for my brother. We were all in pretty bad shape. I had just gotten back from Jamaica and I was weighing at about 156, 6-foot-1-and-a-half – I was pretty skinny. So we went back down there, got in the studio and finished the record. And the damn thing shipped gold.”
This was first recorded in 1968 by the 31st Of February, one of Gregg and Duane Allman’s first bands. Duane’s version of this with the 31st Of February is the first recording of him playing the bottleneck slide guitar, a technique he became famous for.
Steve Alaimo, who was operating the studio where The Allman Brothers recorded this song, received a songwriting credit on this track along with Gregg Allman. Alaimo had a few Hot 100 entries as a singer in the ’60s and early ’70s before moving into production work.
The part of the song that begins: “Crossroads, will you ever let him go” is probably a reference to Robert Johnson, a blues legend who supposedly went to a crossroads and sold his soul to the devil.
Gregg Allman told Esquire in 2013 that thanks to ready access to biphetamines, he had been awake for about two days when he wrote this song. He was working like crazy on another song, but when he played it for his brother, Duane said, “What you have here is a new set of lyrics to an obscure Rolling Stones song.” Said Gregg: “That’s discouraging as s–t, right there. And just as I was about to say f–k it, I wrote ‘Melissa.'”
The Allman Brothers performed this on the last episode of the syndicated Dennis Miller Show on July 25, 1992.
This was used in a commercial television advertisement campaign for Cingular/AT&T Wireless.
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
Freight train, each car looks the same, all the same
And no one knows the gypsy’s name
And no one hears his lonely sighs
There are no blankets where he lies
Lord, in his deepest dreams the gypsy flies
With sweet Melissa
Again, the mornin’s come
Again, he’s on the run
A sunbeam’s shinin’ through his hair
Fear not to have a care
Well, pick up your gear and gypsy roll on
Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Or will you hide the dead man’s ghost?
Or will he lie, beneath the clay?
Or will his spirit float away?
But, I know that he won’t stay
Yes, I know that he won’t stay, yeah
Lord, Lord, it’s all the same