Allison, Mose (John Jr.)

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Allison, Mose (John Jr.)

Allison, Mose (John Jr.), jazz-pop pianist, singer, writer; b. Tippo, Miss., Nov. 11, 1927. Allison is a distinctive jazz pianist, a sly and charming singer primarily in a smooth blues idiom, and a witty and perceptive poet writing such lyrics as, “Ever since the world ended/I don’t go out as much.” His father was a cotton farmer and storekeeper and amateur stride pianist. Mose heard blues on the jukebox in a gas station. He took piano lessons from the age of five until his early teens, when he taught himself trumpet, which he played in the high school band of nearby Charleston, Miss. He also played piano on weekends in a band at a honky-tonk near Greenwood.

In 1945 Allison enrolled at the Univ. of Miss, in Oxford to study chemical engineering, but soon began playing and writing for the band. During 1946–47 he spent 18 months in army bands, then returned to college in 1950, when he decided to pursue music full time, at first in Lake Charles and then in other towns in La. On a summer job in St. Louis he met Audre Schwartz, whom he married in 1951. (That summer he also visited N.Y.C. for the first time.) They moved to Baton Rouge where he completed his B.A. in English at La. State Univ. in 1952, while continuing to perform locally. After several more years freelancing in the Southeast and in Tex. and Colo., often with bassist Taylor La Fargue, the Allisons moved to N.Y. in 1956; by 1959 they had four children. Allison worked with Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz (1957), and Gerry Mulligan. During 1957 he also formed his own trio and soon achieved success in this format, performing in N.Y., Paris, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, sometimes with the addition of local musicians.

Allison reached the height of his popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when his clever blues-influenced-but-very-contemporary songs caught on with a college-age audience. For a while, he was a popular touring act, and his songs were covered by artists such as Bonnie Raitt. He has continued to record and tour sporadically into the 1990s. Allison’s daughter Amy is an acclaimed singer and songwriter with the country-influenced band Parlor James, whose first release was in 1996.


Back Country Suite (1957); The Transfiguration of Hiram Brown (1959); I Love the Life I Live (1960); Don’t Worry About a Thing (1962); The Word from Mose (1964); Western Man (1971); Your Mind Is on Vacation (1976); Middle Class White Boy (1982); Ever Since the World Ended (1987); Earth Wants You (1993).

—Lewis Porter