Mose Allison

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Mose Allison
Mose Allison (crop).jpg
Background information
Birth name Mose John Allison, Jr.
Born (1927-11-11) November 11, 1927 (age 88)
Tippo, Mississippi, United States
Genres Jazz, jazz blues, blues
Instruments Piano, vocals, trumpet
Years active 1956–present

Mose John Allison, Jr. (born November 11, 1927) is an American jazz blues pianist, singer and songwriter.[1]

Early life[edit]

Allison was born outside Tippo, Mississippi, on his grandfather's farm, known as the Island, "because Tippo Bayou encircles it."[2] He took piano lessons from age five,[3] picked cotton, played piano in grammar school and trumpet in high school,[4] and wrote his first song at age thirteen.[5][6]

Allison went to college at the University of Mississippi for a while, then enlisted in the U.S. Army for two years.[7] Shortly after mustering out, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, from which he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts in English studies with a minor in philosophy.[8]


In 1956 Allison moved to New York City and launched his jazz career, performing with artists such as Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Phil Woods.[4] His debut album, Back Country Suite, was issued by Prestige in 1957. He formed his own trio in 1958, with Addison Farmer on bass and Nick Stabulas on drums.

It was not until 1963 that his record label allowed him to release an album entirely of vocals. Entitled Mose Allison Sings, it was a compilation of songs from his previous Prestige albums that paid tribute to artists of the Mojo Triangle: Sonny Boy Williamson ("Eyesight to the Blind"), Jimmy Rogers ("That's All Right") and Willie Dixon ("The Seventh Son"). However, an original composition on the album brought him the most attention – "Parchman Farm". For more than two decades, "Parchman Farm" was his most requested song. He dropped it from his playlist in the 1980s because some critics felt it was politically incorrect. Allison explained in an interview, "I don't do the cotton sack songs much anymore. You go to the Mississippi Delta and there are no cotton sacks. It's all machines and chemicals."[9]

Prestige tried to market Allison as a pop star, but Columbia and later Atlantic tried to market him as a blues artist. Because he sang blues, Jet magazine thought that he was black and wanted to interview him.[10]

Allison was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

His album The Way of the World, released in March 2010, was his first after a 12-year absence from the recording studio.[11]

In 2012, Allison was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in his hometown of Tippo.[12] On January 14, 2013, Allison was honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation's highest honor in jazz, at a ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York.[13]

Allison has written some 150 songs.[3] His performances have been described as "delivered in a casual conversational way with a melodic southern accented tone that has a pitch and range ideally suited to his idiosyncratic phrasing, laconic approach and ironic sense of humour".[14]


Allison's music has influenced many blues and rock artists, including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, the Yardbirds, John Mayall, J. J. Cale, the Who (who made "Young Man Blues" a staple of their live performances), and Georgie Fame (who described him, at a concert at the Rose Theatre in London on 24 May 2013, as "more important than Bob Dylan"). Blue Cheer recorded a version of his song "Parchman Farm" on their debut album, as did the band Cactus, featuring Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert, in the early 1970s. The Yardbirds and the Misunderstood both recorded versions of his song "I'm Not Talking".

His song "Look Here" was covered by the Clash on their album Sandinista! Leon Russell covered Allison's song "Smashed!" on his album Stop All That Jazz. Allison performed with Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, and Ben Sidran on the album Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison. Elvis Costello recorded "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy" on his album Kojak Variety and "Your Mind Is on Vacation" on King of America (bonus tracks). Dani Klein, of the Belgian music act Vaya Con Dios, recorded "Mind on Vacation" on the album Roots and Wings.

Frank Black of the Pixies has said that the song "Allison" from the album Bossanova is about Mose Allison.[15]

The film The Whole Nine Yards begins with Allison's song "I Don't Worry About a Thing" during the opening credits. Americana singer-songwriter Greg Brown wrote and performed the song "Mose Allison Played Here" on his 1997 album, Slant 6 Mind.

The Dutch musician Herman Brood recorded several of Allison's songs including "Going to the City", "Smashed!", "Back on the Corner", and "Swinging Machine". Brood called his band the Wild Romance after a line in Allison's "Lost Mind", and in his live performance used a pastiche of different Allison songs in a number entitled "Blue".

Personal life[edit]

Mose married his wife, Audre, in 1949.[16] They live on Long Island, where they raised four children, including a daughter, Amy, who is a musician.[17] Audre Allison has said that when she first met him, "I could tell that he was someone who generated his own joy."[18] She has also said that "Mose has always paid attention to what is happening in the world, and has always read voraciously both past and present histories".[6]

Political and cultural views[edit]

Allison is reported to have strong views about "the domination of money over everything, the growing lack of empathy on the part of the powers-that-be for the population, wars and more wars, and an underlying hypocrisy in society"[6] and the arrogance of colonisers of the Americas.[16]



  • 1963 : Mose Allison Sings (Prestige 7279)
  • 1965 : Down Home Piano (Prestige 7423)
  • 1965 : Mose Allison Plays for Lovers (Prestige 7446)
  • 1970 : The Best of Mose Allison (Atlantic; re-released on CD with 7 additional tracks in 1988)
  • 1972(?) : Retrospective (Columbia)
  • 1979 : Ol' Devil Mose [compilation] (Prestige 24089)
  • 1994 : Allison Wonderland Anthology (Rhino)

As sideman[edit]

With Al Cohn

With Stan Getz


  1. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encycolpedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 10. ISBN 0-141-00646-3. 
  2. ^ "Mose Allison". Blues Access. Spring 1998. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Interview: Mose Allison (Part 1)". JazzWax. 2010-09-09. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  4. ^ a b Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz', Oxford University Press, p. 14.
  5. ^ Allison, Mose. "Interview: How Joe Henry Coaxed Mose Allison, and His Tongue, Back into the Studio". NPR. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  6. ^ a b c "An interview with jazz and blues singer Mose Allison, World Socialist Web Site". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  7. ^ Myers, Mark (2010-09-09). "Interview: Mose Allison (Part 1)". Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  8. ^ Dickerson, James L. (2005). Mojo Triangle: Birthplace of Country, Blues, Jazz and Rock 'n' Roll (Schirmer Trade Books), pp. 110–112.
  9. ^ 901 Interview (May 1987), Nine-O-One Network Magazine, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Jazz Profiles from NPR: Mose Allison". NPR. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  11. ^ "Mose Allison Official Web Site". 2010. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  12. ^ "Mose Allison". 1927-11-11. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  13. ^ "NEA Jazz Masters | NEA". 1927-11-11. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  14. ^ "In-Depth: Mose Allison...". Properganda Online. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  15. ^ Pixies Titles/Names. Retrieved on 2008-04-01. Archived 28 June 2007 at WebCite‹The template WebCite is being considered for merging.› 
  16. ^ a b Lawrence, Stratton (2012-01-24). "Mose Allison doesn't let it go to his head | Features". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  17. ^ "Biography". Mose Allison. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  18. ^ "Audre Allison: On a Joyride Called Life". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 

External links[edit]