The Grocery Store Trip That Inspired The Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Melissa’

Gregg Allman’s fateful trek to a grocery store helped solidify one of the band’s best-known songs.

By Andy Kahn Dec 8, 2023 1:47 pm PST

Gregg Allman was responsible for writing many of The Allman Brothers Band’s best-known songs. The keyboardist who was born on this date in 1947 was responsible for composing such Southern rock classics as “Midnight Rider,” “Whipping Post,” “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” “Hot ‘Lanta,” “Ain’t Waiting Time No More” and the first song he ever successfully wrote, “Melissa.”

Written in 1967 when Allman was 17-years-old, The Allmans eventually recorded “Melissa” for their fourth album, 1972’s Eat A Peach. The album was the first released after the death of Gregg’s brother and bandmate, guitarist Duane Allman.

Gregg, playing Duane’s guitar, performed “Melissa” at his brother’s funeral held in November 1971 at Snow’s Memorial Chapel in Macon, Georgia. After the performance, Gregg said the song was Duane’s favorite that he had written.

Duane’s favorite song of his brother’s might not have been completed if not for a fateful grocery store run Gregg took late at night early in his career as a touring musician. As Gregg recounted on a number of occasions, the one thing keeping “Melissa” from being completed was the name of the “sweet” woman referenced in the song’s lyrics.

Allman knew he needed a three-syllable name to fit the song’s cadence – like “Barbara” or “Delilah.” No name seemed to fit, until he heard a mother in the grocery store yell across the aisles to her young daughter – “Melissa!”

Allman immediately knew he found the name for his song and was so ecstatic that he almost kissed the mother of Melissa. Better judgment prevailed and instead, he simply thanked the unsuspecting parent.

Hear Gregg retell the story of his fateful grocery store run to Howard Stern below:

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