Mention the name Jim Croce, and people over the age of 35 probably know who he was. They might even be able to associate a song or two with him. Mention him to people over 55, and not only will they know who Croce was, but they might quickly recall the distinct facial and vocal characteristics that set him apart from other singer/songwriters of his day. They would probably even be able to associate a handful of songs with him.
Mention Maury Muehleisen though, and people might say ‘gesundheit’.
Croce was a storyteller for the workingman. He wrote clever songs with lyrics that were easy to follow and that painted clear images for the listener. Croce’s songs were often crafted around blue collar characters and the way they went about their lives. He also wrote tender songs, straight from the heart. Muehleisen was his collaborator, co-writer, and accompanist.
Sadly, both Croce and Muehleisen died in a plane crash in the fall of 1973. At the time, I was in middle school and was listening to them regularly on 8-track tape. Croce’s lyrics captured my young imagination. For a moment in time, he gave the big girls from the roller derby a good name.
In truth, I didn’t really know who Muehleisen was when I was 12. I only knew of Croce. But Maury was the heart of the thing, and somebody I would come to learn more about and better appreciate later on in my life.
Last evening I watched a video compilation of 15 or so of their better songs. The setting was always the same: Croce and Muehleisen either standing or seated on two stools, Muehleisen set slightly behind Croce by a foot or so, acoustic guitars in their hands, and both clad in the faded denim of the 70s on a well-lit stage.
I could watch those two all night long. Last night I watched that video twice.
While Croce played chords, Muehleisen played notes on his acoustic guitar without much flair, but with surgical precision. The timing of his subtle background vocals was just as accurate. But he remained otherwise quiet and blended into the background so Croce could be the show.
I can’t imagine how hard that must’ve been, because Muehleisen too was a songwriter and had aspirations of a career beyond accompanying Croce. Muehleisen had a splendid voice, though it did not have the character of Croce’s, and perhaps it was his lack of standing out that held him back. We’ll never know.
Most days, within a half-mile of leaving my house, my daily ride takes me past the local carwash. Almost always, and I mean going back years, even if it’s just for a moment, I’ll start thinking about and humming Croce’s song, Working At the Carwash Blues.
So as I rode by there this morning, and as I reflected on watching Croce and Muehleisen last night, it didn’t take long for the day’s earworm to set in.
We’ll never know the kind of music that Croce and Muehleisen would have gone on to make together or individually, had that plane crash never occurred. We have the gift though, of what they did give us while they were here — two musical soulmates who performed seamlessly together. What a gift indeed.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Jim Croce and Maury Muehleisen. Enjoy…!
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 4
Mph Avg: 16.6
Hours in the saddle: 10:30