"A real, cool, relaxed, genuine, funky, hipped out, WHITE hero . . . The man, the musician, with the strength to change the world, but the humility and the character to stand alone, live his own life and await his natural time."
—Pete Townshend (The Who)
Singer/songwriters keep coming out of the woodwork at a faster pace now than ever before. A few are hailed as the new genius of the week, some gain only partial acceptance, while others still can't cut it at all.
One thing seems clear: that in the development of this new kind of singer/songwriter, Mose Allison is one of those who was there first with the most. And his influence is subtly displayed in the work of the best who have followed him, it is more obvious still, in powerhouse groups like The Who, for whom Pete Townshend adapted "Young Man Blues," in John Mayall and Johnny Rivers, who reworked "Parchman Farm," and with the Yardbirds, who covered Mose's "I'm Not Talking."
While Mose Allison continues to work and record regularly, it is apparent that his importance rests primarily in the material he recorded for Prestige shortly after coming to New York City in the mid-Fifties. His first album sessions produced Back Country Suite, which remains a major work and is again made available in this new package [Most Allison], linked with his second Prestige album, Local Color.
Born in 1927 in Tippo, Mississippi—the heart of the Delta country— Mose studied piano from the age of six, later picked up on trumpet and led a Dixieland band in high school. After a stint in the Army, where he played piano, Mose studied English, first at the University of Mississippi and later at Louisiana State.
His musical input by this time included Bullmoose Jackson, Percy Mayfield, Charles Brown, John Lee Hooker, and Sonny Boy Williamson, all of whom he had been able to witness firsthand. His first big influence on piano was Nat Cole, together with a fistfull of boogie-woogie players. And he sat in with B.B. King in Memphis several times. Music prevailed over an earlier ambition for a career as an author.
His lyrics came from personal experiences—even today he lives the life he sings about—and his songs have an unparalleled honesty. And the honesty and uncluttered funkiness of his songs carries over into his purely instrumental excursions.
Mose first visited New York City in 1951, and returned again in 1956 when he played with Stan Getz, then with Gerry Mulligan and the Al Cohn–Zoot Sims group. Since that time he has been working as his own man, employing a variety of musicians to form trios whenever gigs have presented themselves—which they are doing with increasing regularity.
The music of Mose Allison has stood the test of time; once the exclusive property of jazz fans and dedicated students of the blues, it sustains its freshness for them while a whole new generation of rock- and folk-oriented listeners discover its flavor for the first time.