The real Allman Brothers were only a part of the Allman Brothers Band for around two years. The Allman Brothers established themselves as one of the pioneers of the developing southern rock subgenre between 1969 and 1971 with the publication of two studio albums and their legendary live album At Fillmore East. Duane Allman, the band’s guitarist, and leader, passed away at 24 in a motorcycle accident three months after the publication of At Fillmore East.
Even though the only remaining member of the titular brothers was Gregg Allman, The Allman Brothers chose to go on. Eat a Peach, their first album without Duane was recorded in 1972, when Gregg discovered a demo he had written before the group had been officially formed. Duane had some pleasant feelings for the song “Melissa” to a certain extent.
Gregg recalled in the book One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. “[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.” Later Gregg would call it, “my brother’s favourite song that I ever wrote” in his memoir My Cross to Bear.
In November 2006, Allman spoke with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, he told, “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.'”
He added, “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 shit… 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.’”
He reflected, “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.”
Gregg really offered producer Steve Alaimo $250 for the publication rights to “Melissa” while he was in a severe financial situation. Allman used the money to buy a flight out of Los Angeles, but because he didn’t own the song, he didn’t include it in the Allman Brothers’ early catalog. Only after Duane’s untimely passing did Gregg feel obligated to recapture the song. He did so by purchasing the rights back and recording it for the album, making it one of only three tracks on Eat a Peach without Duane.
Allman said, “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.”