A trip to the original Empire of Mose: the Mississippi Delta heart of Tallahatchie County, Tippo
This is Part Two of our Mose birthday celebration.
See Part One here: Happy Mose Allison’s Birthday, Part 1.
Yesterday, the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2020, would have been the 93rd birthday of the man who often sang of being the seventh son of the seventh son, Mose Allison.
Mose was born in Tippo, Mississippi, an unincorporated town in Tallahatchie County. The town was named for the Tippo Bayou, which was named Tippo by the Choctaw, which means severed, or torn. Bordered by oxbow lakes and lowlands, it is the site of frequent flooding every year. The result is a thriving haven of winged waterfowl, also known as ducks, and every kind of duck under the Delta sun, including Green-winged teals, mallards, Northern pintails and Northern shovelers. There’s also geese, known to be both grubbers and grazers, that feed on the waste grain and winter wheat.
Diving into the history of Tippo, we find more there than great ducks alone. There is history. On Wikipedia, where ‘Notable People’ are listed for places, there is a singular indication instead for Tippo of ‘Notable Person.’ That person is – yes – Mose. He is essentially the undisputed king of Tippo, though he never actively wore that crown.
The town of Tipppo takes pride in him. As they should, given that he’s the only native son of Tippo to walk on the world stage. When people come to Tippo, they’re often drawn there by a love of Mose.
Such is much in evidence with DJ Emma Peel, the Australian radio host of the weekly PBS FM show Switched On. She’s also a self-declared “Vintage Collector and Connoisseur of all things 1960s and 1970s.” On her great I Dig Old Stuff website, she’s got a vividly spirited series called Road Trippin’ Through the USA, told in words and photos. Part Six details her trip to Memphis first, and then to Mose’s birthplace, and tells the Tippo story beautifully. A passionate and informed scholar of American musical history and culture, she brings us to Mose’s birthplace with loving reverence.
DJ EMMA PEEL: From Corinth we traveled through Tallahatchie County to visit Tippo: the birthplace of one of my favourite jazz artists, Mose Allison.
As you can probably tell from the photos, nothing much happens at Tippo these days. Strangely, though, there’s a Post Office and a Service Station. The original Service Station – which Mose’s father operated – is still there, too (its to the left of me in the photo above). On the grass in front of it is an official Blues Marker which tells you all about Mr Allison and how, as a child, he got his first taste of Jazz on the Service Station jukebox. The Blues Marker is very informative, but as far as style is concerned, I prefer the town’s hand-painted sign on the opposite side of the road.