Maurice J., Maury's Father
Maury was about six years old and Elvis Presley was in his heyday with kids of just about all ages, many of whom believed they wanted to learn to play the guitar and swivel their hips like Mr. Presley. Maury came to us and asked for a guitar and lessons. We had Margaret's mother's big old family upright grand piano. We often gathered around that piano for songfests as Margaret's sister, Mary, played tune after tune. We explained that we could not afford a decent guitar and that since we already had an instrument in the home, we could definitely manage piano lessons. He was definitely not interested in the piano. It would be a guitar or nothing. So, out he went to play and the matter was forgotten.
Eventually, I decided that there was no use idling the free piano. I had always wanted to play, but could not afford lessons, so I bought a "teach yourself to play the piano" book and started to learn to play, page by laborious page. I had progressed to the middle of the book when Maury came in from playing outside and listened intently. He asked me how I learned to do that and I showed him.
To my astonishment, he said, "Can I try?" My prayers were answered. I told him to start at the first page and to learn it perfectly before moving to the next. He also reached the middle of the book and asked for a teacher so he could "really" learn. Maury started lessons at age 9 and continued until shortly after he bought his first guitar at age 17.
Margaret, Maury's Mother
Maury was a hard child to be born. It took two runs to the hospital before he arrived very early on the morning of January 14, 1949. Back in my room at the hospital, the doctor came in to see me and was happy to report that our baby had a "caul" on his head and that meant that he would be "gifted" in his life. This was exciting news but we knew we would have to wait awhile to find out just what the gift was. The start of it took a couple of years.
To begin with Maury was a "crier" and it took lots of time walking, rocking, and singing to quiet him down to sleep. Maurice and I both did all three for him - but since Maurice worked all day, I did a lot of it. Mostly I rocked and sang everything I knew - old songs, new songs, hymns, show tunes, and whatever was popular at the time. When I wasn't singing to him, I was reading to him - Little Golden Books and Mother Goose rhymes. When I had to put him down to do housework, I would place him in the playpen and soothe him with music from a nearby radio.
One big thing that bothered us was that he didn't speak when the time came, no matter how much coaxing. Even though he wouldn't talk, he loved to hum and often hummed himself to sleep. Well, all the singing and reading paid off. When he finally decided to start talking at age three, he started right off without any baby talk. We were amazed!
By this time he could sit down with a Little Golden Book and read it aloud by memory, even down to "turn the page." I always let him turn the pages. He was too cute for words. My sister, Ann, would bring girls from work up to our home at noontime to have them hear Maury "read" his books.
Of course, by now he had grown out of the endless tears. The doctor never figured out what was causing it, but suggested that at least we could be certain that he had a great set of lungs. And, once he started to talk and then to sing, he never stopped - we hear him still in our hearts.
Peggy Ann, Maury's sister
My best recollections of Maury are the times he performed close enough to home that we could go and be part of the audience. In the beginning, he performed by himself, then with Jim as backup, and then as backup for Jim. I especially remember driving to Boston one time to see them at Pall's Mall soon after Maury started backing up Jim. Randy Newman had top billing and left tickets at the box office for "Maury's sister."
Mary, Maury's sister
Currently in the midst of completing a book on Maury's life, I've decided to focus on the most frequently asked question - "How did Maury and Jim get together?"
Maury met Joe Salviuolo, an Assistant Professor of Communications at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. Maury was a student and he and Joe were in a "Folk Music and Related Forms" concert on February 20, 1969 in Tohill Auditorium on campus. Joe was very impressed with Maury's songwriting ability and enjoyed his performance enough to ask him to make a tape of his work to send to his friend Tommy West, a record producer in New York who had attended Villanova with Joe. Joe felt that Tommy and his partner Terry Cashman would be the best judges of this new sound and talent.
Maury began recording that spring and Joe sent the completed tape to New York that summer. Their hopes were high and they were not disappointed. With Joe Salviuolo as his manager, by September 5, 1969 Maury had signed a songwriter's contract with Blendingwell Music and a recording contract with Interrobang Productions and began recording immediately. The following months were occupied with trips to the studio in New York and performances close to home.
By late summer 1970, with more than enough songs for an album recorded, Joe Salviuolo arranged a meeting at the offices of Cashman and West, where he introduced Maury to another friend and fellow Villanova graduate, Jim Croce. Jim and his wife Ingrid had moved back to Pennsylvania from New York in March after the discouraging results of an album recorded by them in 1969. The friendship between Maury and Jim was instantaneous. Their gentle personalities complimented one another. Tommy and Terry agreed with Joe that Jim's mood needed a lift and thought it would be great if Jim could play back-up as Maury went on the road to promote his soon-to-be-released solo album "Gingerbreadd." Jim really liked Maury's sound and they began practicing to get his rhythm parts ready for Maury's future "gigs."
Billboard Magazine announced the arrival of Maury as a new recording artist and the "Gingerbreadd" album was released by Capitol Records in November 1970. Sometimes Maury performed on the road by himself - sometimes Jim accompanied him. Maury became a frequent guest at Jim and Ingrid's rented home in Lyndell. They spent many late nights at the kitchen table - talking, singing, working on Jim's songs, and planning their new lives. In February 1971, Jim sent a tape of his new work to his friend Tommy West. One week later, Maury and Jim headed to New York to record songs that they hoped would become an album for Jim. Jim's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" LP was released in April 1972.
Ann, Maury's sister
Maury loved music for as long as I can remember. He bought 45's and albums all the time. He listened to them day and night, and wrote down the words of those songs that he really liked. Whenver he got a new record or album, he would call me in to his room and he would play it. We'd listen to it together and I'd tell him whether I liked it or not. If I didn't like it, he would point out the things he liked about it, but most of the time I liked what he chose. Maury loved the music and the words. If he or both of us really liked a song, he would place the needle down on the record a hundred times until he had all of the words written down, so that we could sing along.
One time, he took me backstage at a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert, and we talked to them. Maury had a pen and paper and asked Paul about the words in a particular line in one of their songs because he couldn't figure it out from the record. Paul said them very quickly, and Maury wrote just as fast as he could. There were other people around asking Paul for autographs, so he was busy. Mary, however, talked to us for a long time, and we both really enjoyed that conversation. It's something I will never forget. We were at the old Lambertville Music Circus.
Maury was about 4 years older than me, so his taste in music was a little different, but as long as it had to do with music, he was all for it. I wanted the words to "If ever I would leave you," and Maury and I sat in his room and dropped the needle down on my record of it until we had all of the words written down. We both enjoyed music so much, and I still do. As a matter of fact, I believe that Maury sent my husband to me. He's a band director at a school, and he loves all kinds of music. He listens to more of the instrumental part of it, and I listen to the words, but I get him to sit down and listen to the words, and it reminds me very much of the times I spent with Maury.
Those are very happy memories for me, and my love for music lives on.
Joe, Maury's brother
Joe placed this letter to Maury on his grave on the 25th Anniversary of his death, September 20, 1998.
It's been so long since I've seen you, but I think of you and feel you in my heart every day of my life. You know I live close by and I always say I love you when I drive by every day. I miss you so very much. It's a feeling I just can't compare to anything else. All of our lives have changed in so many ways since you have left us, but for the better, because you helped make it that way. I am trying so hard to be the best person I can be here on Earth so I can be with you in Heaven, forever! I love you and miss you terribly but I know that someday we'll be together again. Please save a place for me in Heaven and tell everybody I said Hi.
I love you so much, Maury,
Tom, Maury's brother
Mostly I remember that there were so many of us in one house. We had a lot of fun - talking, laughing, playing games, singing around the piano. I was so proud of my older brother Maury and all that he accomplished - still am.
Michael, Maury's brother
My favorite memory of spending time with Maury was from about 1965, so I was only four years old. Maury was 16 and had a large paper route that encompassed several of the streets surrounding our neighborhood. I would sit on the front porch steps and watch him fold the papers and load his bags.
Some days, if the weather was good and the load was not too heavy, he would position himself so that I could climb up on his shoulders. He would complete his entire route carrying me all the way back home.
Robert, Maury's brother
One of my favorite memories of Maury was watching him create his music. This goes back to the the late 60's, early 70's when we lived in our row home on South Hermitage Ave. in Trenton. Maury had the middle bedroom on the second floor at the top of the stairs. This is where he would pick on the guitar and write down his music. At the bottom of the stairs in the living room, we had a baby grand piano, which Maury played often and would also use to pick out the right notes and chords or something when he was writing his guitar music. He would race up and down the stairs between his room and the piano endlessly, taking three or four steps at a time. This would go on for hours and he would literally make several dozens of trips. We would be watching the tube while this was going on and after a while I guess I just phased all of this commotion out. I sometimes wish I had listened a little closer. It amazes me now how much energy his creative process gave him.
Sometimes Maury would come home with friends to just tool around or jam or whatever. I remember a couple of times when Jim and Ingrid and Judy and some of his friends from the neighborhood or elsewhere would come to our house on Hermitage. Mind you, there were already 10 of us living in this house but you kind of get used to living in close quarters. Anyway, it was really neat listening to the music and the talking and all the excitement and especially the way Jim would talk and tell these really hilarious stories. He had such a great kind of deep voice that just held your attention. I remember sitting on the stairway for hours past bedtime wishing the night would never end.
Another favorite is from the early days of Jim and Maury. I had just gotten home from school and a bunch of us were sitting around the dining room. Maury had just returned home from one of his exploits and he started telling us about this new song they were working on or recording. He was telling us a few of the lines from the song, which we all got such a big kick out of and we laughed and laughed. They were, "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't mess around with Jim." I just remember at the time this was the funniest thing and wasn't that a neat little ditty or whatever. Lo and behold, it wasn't too much later that we started hearing it on the radio and I thought to myself, whoa, this is really happening and that's my brother on the radio!!
Ray, Maury's brother-in-law
I married Maury's sister, Mary, in October of 1971. Maury was in our wedding party, but I had met him several years earlier. He was a sophomore at Cathedral High School when Mary and I met in freshman homeroom. Back then, everyone called her Mary Beth, except Maury - he called her "Mare."
I could tell they had a uniquely close brother-sister relationship, but Maury accepted me readily. He was a quiet and kind person, always greeting others with a smile.