Instrumental pieces don’t become major hits, but “Jessica” by Allman Brothers did just that. The seven-minute instrumental tune was released in 1973 as the second single from the rock band’s album, Brothers and Sisters. It was issued after the extremely successful “Ramblin’ Man.”
The song reached No. 65 on Billboard Hot 100, but it peaked best on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart, reaching No. 29. Though it had little chart success, it’s one of Allman Brothers songs that has remained as classic rock radio’s staple and a favorite to many fans. An article by Wall Street Journal even considered the song as “a true national heirloom.”
In the middle of the 1970s, more radio listeners in London, England, became even more familiar with “Jessica” as the opening theme for BBC’s motoring program Top Gear. The song was also featured in various movies and TV shows such as The Simpsons, My Name Is Earl, and so much more.
Over two decades later, a live recording of “Jessica” during the 1995 An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Story Behind The Song
Written by guitarist Dickey Betts, “Jessica” was made to be played using only two left fingers in honor of the legend of jazz guitar, Django Reinhardt. Reinhardt’s left hand was severely burned, so he focused on using his left index and middle fingers.
Betts wrote most of the song at a farm in Juliette, Georgia, owned by the band. However, when he already had the main melody, Betts revealed that he started getting frustrated with the direction it was moving. Luckily, his baby daughter – whose name is Jessica – crawled into the room and started bouncing to the music. Betts then tried to capture musically how she was reacting to the song’s melody and rhythm and, of course, named it after her.
You can listen to Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” by playing the video below.