Morse Upshaw Gist Sr. was born on September 16, 1923, in Helena, Phillips County, Arkansas.
Gist attended Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas, and the Aero Industries Technical Institute in Los Angeles, California. He joined the US Army Air Corps in 1943 and graduated from the aviation cadet program at Yale with the rank of second lieutenant.
After the war Gist returned to Helena to work in his father's jukebox company. In 1953 they opened Gist Music Company on Cherry Street, which was frequented by influential musicians including Sonny Boy Williamson, Levon Helm, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Elvis Presley. Gist was interviewed by Smithsonian Productions in 1992 for the Memphis: Cradle of Rock 'n' Soul radio documentary series.
Gist passed away on September 12, 2014.