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Mose Allison

Mose Allison - Tippo

Pianist, vocalist and songwriter Mose Allison was born in 1927 in Tippo, where he often listened to blues records on the jukebox at his father’s service station. In 1956 Allison moved to New York City, where he soon achieved acclaim as a jazz artist. His music always retained a strong blues influence, though, and in addition to covering the songs of Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon, Allison authored blues standards including "Parchman Farm."

Mose Allison, one of the few jazz artists to achieve acclaim as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist, was born on November 11, 1927 in his grandfather’s farmhouse on the island in Tippo Bayou, about three miles from town. His father Mose John Allison, Sr., learned to play piano from piano rolls, and would often entertain at home on Sundays, sometimes playing boogie woogie together with one-man-band Percy Walker, an African American. Allison’s mother Maxine encouraged him to take piano lessons at age five, and he soon discovered an ability to play by ear and a preference for “bluesy” songs. In his early teens Allison wrote his first song, a parody in the style of jump bluesman Louis Jordan, and began performing at local parties and school events. He recalled that the jukebox at his father’s service station contained, in addition to country and jazz, blues records by Memphis Minnie, Josh White, Big Bill Broonzy, and others.

While attending high school in Charleston, Allison picked up the trumpet, formed a Dixieland group, and began performing at clubs. After enrolling at the University of Mississippi, he joined the school dance band, the Mississippians. During an 18-month stint in the U. S. Army that interrupted his schooling, he became immersed in jazz and its associated hip lifestyle. Allison returned to Ole Miss but soon gravitated to the blues and jazz scenes of Memphis, where he saw performances by John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson and others. He left the university to perform on the road with his own group in the style of the trio of Nat "King" Cole, a major vocal influence.

Allison continued to work on the road after concluding his studies at Louisiana State University in 1952, and in 1956 he settled in New York City and was soon recording with leading jazz artists including Al Cohn, Stan Getz, and Shelly Manne. Allison debuted on record under his own name in 1957 with the album "Back Country Suite," which featured his vocals on Mercy Dee Walton’s blues hit “One Room Country Shack.” Allison’s next album, "Local Color," featured his original “Parchman Farm,” later covered by Georgie Fame, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Johnny Winter, and Bobbie Gentry, among others. Allison’s original lyrics often displayed the dark humor and pathos that characterizes the blues, as exemplified by “Your Mind is On Vacation,” “Gettin’ There,” “Ever Since I Stole the Blues,” and “Everybody Cryin’ Mercy.” As a vocalist and songwriter, Allison was particularly influential on blues-rock artists from the United Kingdom, including Van Morrison, Ray Davies of the Kinks, Jack Bruce of Cream, and Pete Townshend of the Who, a band that covered Allison’s generational anthem “Young Man Blues” on several albums.

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