Besides Jim Croce, five others were killed in the same fateful plane crash in late 1973, including his accompanying guitarist, Maury Muehleisen. Like Croce, Muehleisen hailed from the east coast of the U.S. - born on January 14, 1949, Muehleisen was raised in New Jersey. When he was nine years old, Muehleisen began taking piano lessons (which he continued over the next ten years), and by the age of 17, had picked up the guitar. He soonafter started playing folk tunes in New Jersey coffeehouses, during which time he befriended another up-and-coming singer-songwriter/folk artist, Jim Croce. By 1970, Muehleisen had signed a recording contract with Capitol Records, and issued a debut recording, Gingerbread, the same year. Muehleisen had invited Croce to play on the album, but the debut disc failed to make an impression on the charts, as it sold poorly. The duo continued to play together regardless, and when Croce signed a new solo recording contract soonafter with ABC (he had issued several obscure albums previously), he invited Muehleisen to supply lead acoustic guitar. The sound of both Croce and Muehleisen playing together proved to be simply exquisite, and the record buying public quickly seemed to agree also. Such Croce releases as 1972's You Don't Mess Around with Jim and 1973's I Got a Name both became hits, and spawned such classics as "Photographs and Memories," "Operator (That's Not the Way it Feels)," "Time in a Bottle," "I Got a Name," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and the title track from You Don't Mess Around with Jim, among others. The future for Croce and Muehleisen seemed bright, but the aforementioned plane crash on September 20, 1973 (after a show in Natchitoches, LA) cut both men's careers tragically short. Although Croce penned the lion's share of the songs on his own, Muehleisen did compose one song that the duo managed to record (just one week prior to their deaths), "Salon and Saloon," which has appeared on several posthumous Croce collections, including 1992's exceptional double disc set, The 50th Anniversary Collection.
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