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Jessica (instrumental)

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Title: Jessica (instrumental)  
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Subject: Brothers and Sisters (album), Dickey Betts, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY: 5/1/73, The Allman Brothers Band, Reference desk/Archives/Entertainment/2015 August 10
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Jessica (instrumental)

Single by The Allman Brothers Band
from the album Brothers and Sisters
B-side "Come and Go Blues"
Released December 1973
Recorded December 1972
Length 7:28 (album version)
4:00 (single version)
Label Capricorn Records 0036
Writer(s) Dickey Betts
The Allman Brothers Band singles chronology
"Ramblin' Man"

"Jessica" is an instrumental piece by American rock band The Allman Brothers Band, released in December 1973 as the second single from the group's fourth studio album, Brothers and Sisters (1973). Written by guitarist Dickey Betts, the song is a tribute to Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, in that it was designed to be played using only two fingers on the left hand. The song involves interplay between two keyboards, performed by Chuck Leavell and Gregg Allman, and Betts's electric guitar solos. Session musician Les Dudek performs acoustic guitar on the song, and has claimed to have co-written it.

Betts wrote the majority of "Jessica" at the band's farm in Macon, Georgia.

Issued as a single following the immensely successful "Ramblin' Man", "Jessica" did not receive the same level of chart success. Despite this, it became a standard in rotations for classic rock radio stations in the following decades. Reviews of the song have been widely positive. Many critics at the time called it a highlight of the album, and a 2006 Wall Street Journal article deemed it "a true national heirloom". It is widely known as the theme to the BBC Two motoring program Top Gear.


  • Background 1
  • Composition 2
  • Reception 3
    • Commercial performance 3.1
    • Critical reception 3.2
    • Awards and nominations 3.3
  • Chart performance 4
  • Cover versions 5
  • Appearances in popular culture 6
  • Notes 7
    • References 7.1
    • Sources 7.2
  • External links 8


Songwriting always has some gray areas, because if someone plays a particular riff does that mean it's part of the song or part of the arrangement? We all contributed to the arrangement of the piece, but it was Dickey's song.

Chuck Leavell on songwriting credits[1]

After the death of group leader [3] "Jessica" was an attempt to write a song that could be played with just two fingers, in honor of Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who played with two left fingers due to severe burns.[3] Betts had crafted the main melody of the song but became frustrated with its direction afterward. Jessica, Betts's baby daughter, crawled into the room and began bouncing to the music. "I started playing along, trying to capture musically the way she looked bouncing around the room," said Betts, who named the song after her.[3]

According to session musician [4]

The song's main melody consists of two keyboards and Betts's electric guitar harmonizing.

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The band had tracked upwards of "three or four" recordings for Brothers and Sisters when Betts brought "Jessica" to the studio.[4] Dudek accompanied Betts on guitar, in order to illustrate both the rhythm guitar and the melody.[4] Leavell noted the song presented a challenge, since earlier instrumentals were more serious in nature: "How do we make this a little more intense and make it work as an Allman Brothers song?"[1] Dudek had worked out harmonies with Betts and believed he would be recording with Betts, but Betts dissuaded him, noting that he had already played harmonies on "Ramblin' Man" and that critics might believe him to be in the band if he played harmonies on "Jessica".[1] Dudek instead played the acoustic rhythm guitar, while Leavell played harmonies on piano. "I was very disappointed, but there was nothing I could say about it," said Dudek later.[1] The song would wind up with two keyboards and one guitar. In the studio, the musicians worked on the song's arrangement, which took six days. Leavell created the transition between the piano and guitar solos.[5] Betts later likened the song's creation to architecture, noting that it is "meticulously constructed, and every aspect has its place."[6]

Leavell disagreed with the notion that Dudek co-wrote the song, noting that Betts created the melody of the song and its rhythm.[1] In contrast, Dudek claims Betts walked with him into manager Phil Walden's office, demanding he receive songwriting royalties for Jessica.[1] "I didn't understand all that exactly at the time, but in retrospect, I should have got 50 percent. Because it wasn't a completed song until I gave him the bridge section, the part that goes to the G chord," remembered Dudek.[1] Drummer Butch Trucks questioned Dudek's account, noting that they all spent time crafting the arrangement. "I think it could be a group credit almost, and if any one person would have a writing claim it would be Chuck Leavell, who added a tremendous amount to 'Jessica'," said Trucks.[5] Leavell acknowledged this: "I could say I co-wrote it, because I made a lot of suggestions, but I don't think that's fair."[1] After Dudek left Capricorn Records to tour with the Steve Miller Band, he was let out of his contract, which involved no credits on the publishing deal for Brothers and Sisters. He maintains that Betts apologized to him about "the whole 'Jessica' thing" years later, claiming Capricorn said they did not have to pay him.[7]


The tune is in the key of grand piano on this tune, playing a solo around the 2:30 mark. Betts plays his guitar solo in the scale of D Major (A Mixolydian) at 3:45. The acoustic guitar is played by Les Dudek.

The original version on Brothers and Sisters clocks in at 7:30, although there is a shortened single edit, which cuts out some of the main theme at the end of the piece, trimming it to 4:00 exactly. This version is the one heard on most classic rock radio stations, and any kind of various artist compilation on which "Jessica" has been featured. However, most Allman Brothers compilations use the full 7:30 version.


Commercial performance

The song peaked best on Billboard‍‍ '​‍s Easy Listening chart, where it peaked at number 29 on March 9, 1974.[8] Although "Jessica" rose no higher than number 65 on the Hot 100, it later became a staple of classic rock radio.[9]

Critical reception

Initial reviews of the song in 1973 were very positive. Bud Scoppa of Rolling Stone wrote, "To my ears, this is the most effective instrumental the Allmans have ever recorded: It breaks the band's recent tendency toward humorlessness while demonstrating vividly that this group can elaborate brilliantly on a motif without once falling into obvious blues or rock & roll patterns."[10] Billboard singled it out as one of the "best cuts" from the album,[11] and it was mentioned as a highlight by Janis Schacht of Circus. "The jazzy sound is not only effective, it's aesthetically beautiful. Chuck Leavell's piano work is much on a par with Nicky Hopkins' work for the Rolling Stones. It moves, it boogies, it carries the piece along with incredible style and is met halfway by Dickie Betts' clean, sweeping guitar lead."[12]

It has continued to receive praise in recent years. A January 2006 Wall Street Journal article referred to the piece as "a true national heirloom."[13]

Awards and nominations

A later recording of "Jessica", a live recording included on An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set (1995), won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996.[14]

Chart performance

Chart (1973) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 35
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM) 68
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[15] 29
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 65
US Easy Listening (Billboard)[8] 29

Cover versions

  • The alternative rock group They Might Be Giants did a cover version of the tune, which was released on their 1993 EP Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas).
  • Country band Shenandoah does a cover of Jessica at the end of their number one hit "I Got You".
  • Chuck Leavell continues to perform it as a piano-based piece, as with his version on the album Southscape.[17]
  • Jazz fusion band Dixie Dregs also covered the song on their album California Screamin, released in 2000.
  • The BBC series Top Gear nowadays features a heavier electric version of the tune as its opening theme, produced by Christian Henson, a British soundtrack composer. This is called Jennifer.
  • Hank Marvin did a cover version of the tune on his 1992 album Into the Light.
  • On Top Gear, broadcast on BBC Two on 11 March 2012, Slash played an alternative version of the theme at the show's ending.
  • The Spanish group Pata Negra featured a cover of the song in their album Rock Gitano.

Appearances in popular culture

The tune is perhaps most famous as the opening theme to the original BBC TV show Top Gear and for the 2002 format of the series, albeit a modernised cover version. In one episode, James May recreated the tune using nothing but exhaust notes from several cars, while in another episode the tune in its full version was heard to be played over the radio when the three presenters tested in America (Series 12, Episode 2). At the last episode's end of the 18th series of the show, ex Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash played his version of the tune. "Jessica" is also used for most international versions of Top Gear, including the US version which used it as its theme only during the first season.

The tune was also featured in the movies Fear and Lassie, and was used as the opening theme tune for the Dr. Dean Edell radio show.

In the 1990s, the American wrestling promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling used this song when advertising their live events.

More recently, the tune was featured in the video game Guitar Hero II, in the "Relentless Riffs" section of the PlayStation 2 version and in the "Return of the Shred" section of the Xbox 360 version. It also made an appearance in the phone version of Guitar Hero 3 and has been released as DLC for Rocksmith and most versions of Rock Band (as of November 20, 2012).[18]

In television series, "Jessica" has been featured in The Simpsons episode "Little Big Girl" and the episode "Randy in Charge" of My Name is Earl. In addition, during the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Thing That Couldn't Die", Tom Servo would mimic the first few bars whenever someone referred to a character named Jessica by name.

The tune was featured as background music to an AAMCO commercial.

The tune was featured on the "Local on the 8s" monthly playlists several times between 2000 and 2010 on The Weather Channel.

CFMJ Toronto's Leaf Talk with Andy Frost used the song to conclude its programs.

The tune is often played as background music on Angel Stadium of Anaheim's sound system as fans leave the stadium after an Angels loss.

The tune makes an appearance in the 2012 version of The Three Stooges during the scene where Larry tries to dislodge a peanut from the blow hole of a dolphin.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Paul 2014, p. 204.
  2. ^ Paul 2014, p. 201.
  3. ^ a b c d Paul 2014, p. 202.
  4. ^ a b c d e Paul 2014, p. 203.
  5. ^ a b Paul 2014, p. 205.
  6. ^ Paul 2014, p. 207.
  7. ^ Paul 2014, p. 206.
  8. ^ a b "Easy Listening".  
  9. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (December 18, 1999). "ABB on the Charts".  
  10. ^ Bud Scoppa (September 27, 1973). "Brothers and Sisters Review".  
  11. ^ ‍‍ '​‍s Top Album Picks"Billboard".  
  12. ^ Janis Schacht (November 1973). "Brothers and Sisters Review".  
  13. ^ "Tree Growin' Man".  
  14. ^ Poe 2008, p. 247.
  15. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Allman Brothers Band search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  16. ^ "The Allman Brothers Band – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Allman Brothers Band. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  17. ^ "Southscape"Google: Albums -
  18. ^ Harmonix. "Six Singles from Six Decades to Celebrate the Five-Year Anniversary of Rock Band". Rock Band Blog. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 


  • Paul, Alan (2014). One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. St. Martin's Press.  
  • Freeman, Scott (1996). Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. Little, Brown and Company.  
  • Poe, Randy (2008). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books.  
  • Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear. William Morrow.  

External links

  • Official website
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