January 14, 1949|
Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||September 20, 1973
Natchitoches, Louisiana, U.S.
|Genres||Folk, folk rock, pop|
|Instruments||Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, harmonica, backing vocals|
|Associated acts||Jim Croce|
Maury Muehleisen (January 14, 1949 – September 20, 1973) was an American-born musician, songwriter, and artist best known for his studio work, live accompaniment, and impact on the music of Jim Croce. He died in the same plane crash that killed Croce.
Muehleisen was born into a large family in Trenton, New Jersey. He received classical piano training at the age of nine, and began playing guitar when he was 17. He briefly attended Glassboro State College in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Muehleisen had written several songs and was introduced to producers Terry Cashman and Tommy West, who offered to produce an album of his songs. At that time, Jim Croce was out of the music industry and was working a series of odd jobs. Muehleisen and Croce were introduced by a mutual friend and developed an immediate and lasting rapport. With steady gigs and a growing fan base, Muehleisen invited Croce to back him up as a second guitarist at local Philadelphia-area venues just prior to the release of the Gingerbreadd album by Capitol Records in November 1970.
Though commercial results were minimal, Muehleisen's music and songwriting began to have a significant impact—the emergence of a new structural sophistication and commercial appeal—on the musical development of Croce's own songwriting. The result was a sound captured by Cashman and West's sparse production on Croce’s three albums—You Don't Mess Around with Jim; Life and Times; and I Got a Name, which was released posthumously.
The resulting commercial success of the music launched Croce and Muehleisen on 18 months of frequent touring, both in the United States and abroad; seven national television appearances, including The Tonight Show, American Bandstand, The Dick Cavett Show, and the Helen Reddy Show; as an opening act for Randy Newman, Woody Allen, and Loggins and Messina; and numerous radio interviews. A typical concert venue featured Muehleisen and Croce in a two-guitar acoustic duet, playing to audiences sometimes as large as 10,000 people (Chicago’s Ravinia Folk Festival, July 1973). Occasionally, producer Tommy West would join them onstage, typically on the TV appearances, playing the piano.
With constant touring becoming a grind, and a No. 1 record on the charts ("Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"), Muehleisen and Croce returned to New York's The Hit Factory in the summer of 1973 to record Croce's third record as a single artist. Recording sessions were sandwiched between tour stops, and the final song was finished on September 14, 1973. One of Croce's last recordings was a song written by Muehleisen, titled "Salon and Saloon", one of the few songs on Croce's solo albums where he was not the prime song writer (the I Got a Name LP included two other non-Croce-written tunes.)
Continuing to tour, Muehleisen and Croce left New York for the southeastern United States. On Thursday, September 20, 1973, they were in Natchitoches, Louisiana, at Northwestern State University. Their entourage—the pilot, Muehleisen, Croce, a comedian who was the opening act, Croce's road manager and his booking agent—arrived by a small chartered plane. Less than an hour after the concert, the plane crashed at 10:45 pm as it was taking off for the next concert in Sherman, Texas. Everyone on board the plane was killed instantly.
The official report of the accident said that the charter pilot had severe coronary artery disease, had run a portion of the three miles to the airport from a motel, and may have suffered a heart attack causing him to crash the twin-engined Beechcraft E18S into a pecan tree at the end of a clear runway with excellent visibility. Early the following week, Muehleisen was buried in Trenton.
Muehleisen had an enthusiastic preference for Martin Guitars and used a Martin D-18 and D-35 in his studio recordings, both on Gingerbread and on Jim Croce's three albums. Muehleisen had a natural finger-picking style that accentuated the higher registers of the Martins in a crystalline tone. Eventually both Muehleisen and Croce became some of the early artists to use Ovation guitars, known for the unique synthetic "Lyrachord Bowl" design on the back of the guitar, instruments often seen on their later television appearances. Muehleisen also added some electric guitar on I Got a Name.
On September 20, 2006, 33 years to the day after his death, the first domestic CD reissue of his Gingerbreadd LP, along with a companion CD, Maury Muehleisen – Before the Ever Since, featuring early home and studio recordings, was made publicly available. Liner notes on Gingerbreadd include an explanation of the title. In addition to early renditions of the original Gingerbreadd song lineup, the companion CD includes Muehleisen's original guitar-only recording of "Salon and Saloon" (the version sung by Croce was supported by Tommy West on the piano as the only instrumentation).
In an August 12, 2010, article in Inside New Jersey magazine, Muehleisen's sister Mary discussed his music and his association with Croce.
- NTSB Identification: FTW74AF017; 14 CFR Part 135 Nonscheduled operation of ROBERT AIRWAYS; Aircraft: BEECH E18S, registration: N50JR (Report). NTSB.gov. 1973-09-20.
- "Jim Croce and Maury Muehleisen's musical partnership endures". Inside Jersey. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Maury Muehleisen website, compiled by his sister