For other songs named "Jessica", see Jessica (disambiguation).
Jessica cover
{{{Type}}} by The Allman Brothers Band
Released December 1973
Recorded December 1972
Genre Template:Hlist
Length Template:Ubl
Label Capricorn 0036
Producer Template:Hlist
The Allman Brothers Band 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.Template:Cn

Betts wrote the majority of "Jessica" at the band's farm in Juliette, Georgia. He named it after his daughter, Jessica Betts, who was an infant when it was released. She had bounced along to the song's rhythm, and Betts attempted to capture her attitude with its melody. He invited fellow guitarist Les Dudek over to collaborate on it, and Dudek formed the bridge. The arrangement was crafted prior to recording, which took place at Capricorn Sound Studios 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 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.


Template:Quote box After the death of group leader Duane Allman in 1971, the Allman Brothers Band continued on, adding keyboardist Chuck Leavell. A year later when Berry Oakley also died, Lamar Williams was brought in as the bassist replacement, finishing the album Berry did not. The addition of Leavell in particular changed the band's sound and direction, which has often been considered most evident on "Jessica".Template:Sfn Guitarist Dickey Betts wrote the song at "the Farm," a 432-acre "group hangout" in Juliette, Georgia. "I really need to have an image in my head before I can start writing an instrumental because otherwise it's too vague. I get an emotion or an idea I want to express and see what I can come up with," said Betts in 2014.Template:Sfn "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.Template:Sfn 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.Template:Sfn

According to session musician Les Dudek, he co-wrote "Jessica" but did not receive credit.Template:Sfn Betts had invited him over for dinner, and instructed him to bring his acoustic guitar. They played the song together, and Betts became frustrated, as it went nowhere following the opening and main verse riff.Template:Sfn According to Dudek, he formed the bridge section while Betts was away, checking on their steaks. Upon his return, Dudek showed him his new section. "Dickey lit up like a lightbulb he was so happy, because now we had the new section the song desperately needed," he remarked.Template:Sfn The two hopped in Betts's pickup truck with their guitars in excitement, with intentions to show each band member their new instrumental. "I'll never forget, right when we got in Dickey's truck, it started to lightly, almost mystically, snow, as if it was Duane sending us a message: 'Hey, you guys finally got that tune.'"Template:Sfn

"Jessica" noicon

The song's main melody consists of two keyboards and Betts's electric guitar harmonizing.
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The band had laid down "three or four" track recordings for Brothers and Sisters when Betts brought "Jessica" to the studio.Template:Sfn Dudek accompanied Betts on guitar, in order to illustrate both the rhythm guitar and the melody.Template:Sfn 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?"Template:Sfn 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".Template:Sfn 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.Template:Sfn 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.Template:Sfn Betts later likened the song's creation to architecture, noting that it is "meticulously constructed, and every aspect has its place."Template:Sfn

Leavell disagreed with the notion that Dudek co-wrote the song, noting that Betts created the melody of the song and its rhythm.Template:Sfn In contrast, Dudek claims Betts walked with him into manager Phil Walden's office, demanding he receive songwriting royalties for Jessica.Template:Sfn "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.Template:Sfn Drummer Butch Trucks questioned Dudek's account, noting that they all spent time crafting the arrangement. "I wasn't there, so I can't say what Les did or didn't do, but I take that with a grain of salt. Look at the track records of what each of them has written besides Jessica. 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.Template:Sfn 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."Template:Sfn 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.Template:Sfn


The tune is in the key of A Major, with the main guitar solo using the key of D Major. The signature melody line, as with all of Dickey Betts' instrumental compositions, is played harmonically among various instruments, in this case, Betts taking the melody on guitar, Chuck Leavell playing the top harmony line on the Fender Rhodes electric piano, and Gregg Allman playing the bottom harmony line on the Hammond organ. Leavell also plays grand piano on this tune, playing a solo around the 2:30 mark. At 3:45 the song modulates up a fourth and Betts plays his guitar solo in the key of D Major. The acoustic guitar is played by Les Dudek. The tune resolves back to A Major for the return of the main theme.

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 performanceEdit

The song peaked best on BillboardTemplate:'s Easy Listening chart, where it peaked at number 29 on March 9, 1974.[1] Although "Jessica" rose no higher than number 65 on the Hot 100, it later became a staple of classic rock radio.[2]

Critical receptionEdit

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."[3] Billboard singled it out as one of the "best cuts" from the album,[4] 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."[5]

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."[6]

Awards and nominationsEdit

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.Template:Sfn

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1973) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 35
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM) 68
US Easy Listening (Billboard)[1] 29

Cover versionsEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Template: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.[8] 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.[9] "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 Field of Dreams, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Fear and Lassie, and was used as the opening theme tune for the Dr. Dean Edell radio show.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Easy Listening". Billboard (New York City: Prometheus Global Media) 86 (10): 31. March 9, 1974. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. Mayfield, Geoff (December 18, 1999). "ABB on the Charts". Billboard (New York City: Prometheus Global Media) 111 (51): 26. ISSN 0006-2510.
  3. Bud Scoppa (September 27, 1973). "Brothers and Sisters Review". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC). ISSN 0035-791X.
  4. "BillboardTemplate:'s Top Album Picks". Billboard (New York City: Prometheus Global Media) 85 (34): 52. August 25, 1973. ISSN 0006-2510.
  5. Janis Schacht (November 1973). "Brothers and Sisters Review". Circus.
  6. "Tree Growin' Man". The Wall Street Journal: A13. January 25, 2006.
  7. "Google: Albums – Southscape"
  8. 8.0 8.1 Roach, Martin (2012). The Top Gear Story: The 100% Unofficial Story of the Most Famous Car Show . . . In the World. John Blake. p. 38. ISBN 978-1857826623.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Porter, Richard (2015). Top Gear: Ambitious but Rubbish: The Secrets Behind Top Gear's Craziest Creations. Random House. p. 12. ISBN 9781448140084.



  • Paul, Alan (2014). One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250040497.
  • Freeman, Scott (1996). Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0316294522.
  • Poe, Randy (2008). Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879309398.
  • Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear. William Morrow. ISBN 978-0062112033.

External linksEdit

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