Maury and Salon and Saloon
Written by Mary Mitchell, Maury’s high school friend
Maury and I shared the same homeroom at St. Mary’s Cathedral High School in Trenton, New Jersey for four years. He placed first in the admissions test, so everybody was a little bit awed by the smartest kid in our class - including me. But since our names both began with M, we were destined to be in pretty close proximity, and we ended up sharing a lot of classes together as well.
Maury was interested and dedicated to his music from day one. I was dedicated to ballet. Both of us would finish school, extracurricular activities, and then head to our respective music practice and ballet class. In time, both of us got the reputation for being sort of geeky. It became a bond of friendship. As I look back, we were pretty geeky and serious-minded for our age.
Maury had a delicious wit and sense of humor. He was quiet and thoughtful, and always seemed to be looking at things differently from everybody else. He was kind, and fun, and seemed to be the only person at school who thought it was okay to be serious about an art form. That made him very special to me. Let me add that he was a whole lot more gifted at his art than I ever could have hoped to be at mine.
We graduated from Cathedral and went off to different colleges. During visits home, I heard that Maury had left Glassboro State College and was pursuing a musical career. I remember thinking, "That’s where he belongs."
One summer day in 1970, I was seeing off a friend at the Trenton Train Station. When the train pulled away, I turned around and there was Maury. He’d been seeing off a friend, too. I asked him if he needed a ride home. He accepted, and off we went in my Mom’s Cutlass convertible, with the top down.
Instead of taking him directly to Hermitage Avenue, where he lived, we just kept on driving and driving and talking and talking - all afternoon. The time just melted away as we caught each other up on our lives since graduation. We talked about what we were learning, what meant something to us and what didn’t. We talked about his music about a solo album he was recording at The Hit Factory. He told me that he had just been introduced to another singer/songwriter named Jim Croce, not one of the studio musicians working on Maury’s album, but someone who was living in Pennsylvania and performing at a club there. We talked about how our classmates had changed and speculated on how they must have thought we’d changed. I was going to school in New York and worked as a fashion model to earn spending money. Maury looked very much the creative, long-haired artist that he was. It never occurred to me that we must have looked pretty odd together that day.
Naturally, my mom was furious that I had been gone for hours. She asked where I’d been, and I remember telling her that I’d seen Maury at the station, given him a ride home, and we drove around sort of soul-to-soul all afternoon.
I would later learn that, after he finished recording his album, Maury took Jim on as a backup guitarist for a time, and then that Maury eventually went on to perform with Croce, as Jim’s lead guitarist. Then I learned that there was a plane crash, and suddenly Maury was gone. I remember reading the news accounts over and over in disbelief.
Some time later, Mary Muehleisen called me. We sort of knew each other because she was in the Cathedral class behind me and Maury. After I offered my condolences, she asked me if I remembered a day at the Trenton Train Station when Maury and I had that chance reunion. I remembered it well because it was such a special, singular time.
Mary told me that Maury wrote a song about that day and had planned to surprise me with it when he returned from his trip. It was on Jim Croce’s I Got a Name album.
The song was Salon and Saloon.
While on tour with Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina in August 1973, Maury and Kenny shared some time writing a song together. Maury was very excited about this collaboration and when he talked with our family about it on September 16, 1973, he called it Kenny’s Dream. Later re-titled Fever Dream by Kenny, the song was eventually released by Columbia Records in 1974 on Loggins & Messina’s Mother Lode LP. Kenny wrote to me a few years ago and was kind enough to share his memory of that time.
“Maury was a terrific person and a very talented guitarist. I’m glad you’re writing his story. We were just getting to know each other in those days. My dearest memory is of the writing of Fever Dream together. We were doing our laundry in some Holiday Inn on the road, and while we waited, I showed him an idea that I’d just begun. We wrote most of the song together between trips to the washer and dryer.
Looking back, it was especially eerie that he and I would write a song about a character anticipating his own death, just weeks before Maury met his own. I truly liked him. He was a genuinely nice, gentle guy. Not pushy in any way. I don’t know if you knew Jim or not, but when they were together, he let Jim do most of the talking. Jim was a very charismatic presence, even in airport coffee shops. They were obviously old, close friends, and Jim was very proud of the work that they wrote together.”
Letter to Maury's sister, Mary
Written by Joe Salviuolo, Maury's first manager
May 11, 1998
Dear Mary -
It's hard to believe that it'll be 25 years this September since we lost Maury and Jim. I think about them all the time. Even though Jim had been a close friend long before I met Maury, I'm happy to say that Maury and I got to be close friends very quickly, and now it's hard to think of one without the other.
Maury had a very special musical gift and a very special soul. One of the most satisfying things in my life was being able to bring Jim and Maury together. I don't think anyone really understands the magic that came out of that union. Maury's influence on Jim was so great that none of the music could have happened without him. Of course, Jim was already a gifted songwriter, but playing with Maury opened up a new side of him and it enabled him to write the kind of songs which were destined to become classics in contemporary music.
I've met musicians who still marvel at the sound that Maury and Jim were able to get out of just two guitars. No one else has been able to match it.
A couple of years ago I met a guitarist from Germany who said he based his whole style on listening to Maury's playing on Jim's albums. There have been countless people who were inspired to learn to play just because of the magic they heard on those albums. It's too bad not enough people get to hear the Gingerbreadd album and more of Maury's songs. There's no question that he would have gone on to do some solo albums and been a star in his own right. There just wasn't enough time. We should be happy knowing that the music we do have will always be around.
It's great to see that there are so many fans around the world - some of them are just discovering the music.
Tommy West, Maury's record producer
The Muehleisens are a real stand-up family. They have accepted what happened to their son and have prevailed with their unwavering faith in a higher power. Their dignity during those awful days in 1973 touched and taught all of us that family is what really matters.
There are not enough words in real or cyberspace for me to adequately describe Maury or my feelings for him. Using music as our common ground, we developed a relationship based on mutual respect for each other's talent. Terry Cashman and I were constantly amazed by what Maury did as a musician, writer and singer. The word genius has lost a lot of its luster these days, but it fit Maury. He was as responsible for Jim's success as any producer, engineer, manager or record company. He was an integral part of THE SOUND. No one has been able to reproduce or top what Maury did with his acoustic lead parts on Jim's recordings.
When I went to Nashville in 1977, the musicians all wanted to know who that "picker" was. Maury composed and played some of the most recognizable signature "licks" in pop music.
My fondest memory of Maury was when he and I recorded the backup harmony parts on "Thursday" during the "I Got A Name" sessions in the summer of 1973. We always sounded great together, but this day was cosmic…and quick. Two takes…one to get the basic background track down and the second to "double" our parts. If you listen closely, you can almost hear us smiling as we nailed the performance supporting Jim's tribute to Gordon Lightfoot. It was a very sweet moment.
Terry Cashman, Maury's record producer
The last time I saw Maury we were in a NYC cab. I had just promised him that we would soon get around to doing a new album of his songs. As he realized, Jim's career was in full flight and it was in everyone's best interest to put our efforts into Jim's next record. I told him that Tommy and I believed in him and that his time would come. We all know that time never came.
Thankfully, we have much to remember Maury by. His amazing guitar parts on Jim's records are something that reminds me all the time of his brilliance. Every time I listen to Operator, I get chills. He plays constantly but his part only jumps out when there's a hole. He's never too busy and his part blends beautifully into the arrangement. I remember when I first heard Maury playing with Jim. It was on the cassette that Tommy received from the guys. We instantly knew that what we were listening to was very special. Don't Mess Around With Jim, Time In A Bottle and Operator were on one cassette. Something had happened to Jim's songs. He was writing from his heart and the new songs reflected a more original and creative presentation. I believe in my heart that Maury had a major effect on Jim's new approach. Maury's superior musicality and virtuosity seemed to seep into Jim's music, taking it to a new level.
The two guitars sounded like one orchestra. Thank God we realized that all we had to do was record the songs simply so that the listener could hear Jim's great voice surrounded by the perfectly conceived guitar parts. Less was more.
It's over thirty years that the music that Maury Muehleisen had so much to do with creating has survived. You hear it and marvel at the intricacy and simplicity at the same time. I'm sure that Maury had many other great moments to share with us, but fate cheated all of us. And, although his time to shine on his own never came, each time I hear one of his gems on one of the classics he helped to create, I know that his spirit will always be with us and the gift he gave us will always be there for us to enjoy. Thank you, my friend.
Phil Kurnit, Cashman & West's associate
I have been trying to give you a piece from me on Maury, but how can I gild the rose? The tributes from Tommy and Terry, and their song, Maury, leave nothing unsaid. I haven't heard the lyrics to Maury in a long time - it brings back the tears, the same lumps in my throat; they never change, despite 30 years. The world was deprived of the next modern Andres Segovia, of a warm, admirable friend and human being. The beauty of his music reflected his heart - not just his mind.
God bless your family - He blessed all of them, and us, with Maury, for a little while.
Comments from Jimmy Webb
Even though we were only booked together at The Main Point in Philadelphia for one weekend, I remember Maury as a wonderful man and a great musician. He made a grand first impression on me. I wish you all the best on this web page.
Note: Maury was the opening act for Jimmy Webb at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA, just outside of Philadelphia, on December 18 and 19, 1970.
Written by Gene Arnold
I heard the bells tolling down Trenton way
On a sad and lonely, very gray day
Far from the sound of a six-string guitar
Played by the hand of a young piano star
Yet close to a place we called Gingerbreadd
Announcing its leader had headed for glory
Where when sweet sounds are wanted
He calls the name Maury.