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2013: 40th Anniversary 1998: 25th Anniversary

The Gathering

September 20, 2013, marked the 40th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Jim Croce and Maury Muehleisen. January 10, 2013, also would have been Jim's 70th birthday. To honor those events, a fan "Gathering" took place in Philadelphia, Jim's home town, on the weekend of Friday, September 20 through Sunday, September 22, 2013.

Friday, September 20

From left, Maria Croce Swan, Steve Angelucci, Jeanette Fina, Mary Muehleisen, and Ralph Babusci. Mary is the sister of Maury Muehleisen; the other are Jim Croce's cousins.

The plaque presented to Mary Muehleisen by Bryan Gallagher.

Fan and Family Gathering

The 40th anniversary weekend "gathering" got off to a good start when family and fans alike began to arrive at the Comfort Inn Hotel in Essington, close to Philadelphia airport. They came from as far afield as Mississippi, Utah and Canada. Chip Broyles had the honor of being the farthest travelled to reach the event, flying in from Salt Lake City, Utah. Four of Jim Croce's cousins were in attendance, those being Steve Angelucci, Jeanette Fina, Maria Croce Swan and Ralph Babusci.

The weekend had originally been the brainchild of Steve Angelucci with the help of Ron Gletherow of "Maggie's Guitar". Further help soon followed with tireless efforts from Mary Muehleisen and Jeanette Fina. It was decided, mainly for nostalgic reasons, to use the same hotel that was attended by those present at the 1998. Steve was then responsible for securing the venue at Upper Darby Performing Arts Center for a tribute concert on the Saturday evening.

For now it was a time to renew old friendships, remenisce and play Jim Croce tunes. The hotel conference room was used for this purpose and Steve and Jeanette had provided light refreshments for everybody. Guitars were in abundance and everybody took turns in playing their own particular Croce favorite.

Later in the evening, a plaque was presented to Mary Muehleisen by Bryan Gallagher. It was a duplicate of one that had been donated by Bryan to the Prather Colliseum in Natchitoches, Louisianna, in memory of those who had died on that fateful night after Jim Croce's final performance there.

Saturday, September 21

The tour passed Jim's childhood home in Philadelphia.

Tour participants pose near Jim Croce's plaque on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

"Memories" Coach Tour

By Steve Angelucci

One of the highlights of The Gathering was a bus tour of places in and around Philadelphia that figured greatly in the life of Jim Croce. As tour guide, I (as Jim's friend and cousin) was able to speak firsthand about those spots and comment on their significance in his life. Assisting me was another one of Jim's cousins, Jeanette Fina, who organized the tour. Offering a great deal of input was Mary Muelheisen, sister of Jim's musical partner Maury Muelheisen. Offering moral support were Maria Croce Swan and Ralph Babusci, also cousins to Jim, and a busload of enthusiastic Croce fans!

At 10 am, we departed the Comfort Inn in Essington, Pa. and immediately headed for South Philadelphia, the birthplace of many entertainment figures. The bus cruised up Broad Street passing the Methodist Hospital, Jim's birthplace, and headed north for a few blocks to the Croce family's first home at Broad and Reed streets. Broad Street took us directly toward the very recognizable City Hall building (prominently featured in the TV show Cold Case and many movies) and into Center City Philadelphia. All passengers departed the bus at the Walk of Fame, on Broad Street between Spruce and Walnut streets, and we began searching for Jim's commemorative plaque. Upon finding it, we posed for numerous photos in front of the brass award embedded in the sidewalk.

The tour had us double back to South Philadelphia for a quick brunch at Pat's Steaks on Passyunk Avenue. This iconic restaurant originated the cheese steak and is a spot Jim dined at on many occasions. Then we headed west, across town, to Upper Darby where Jim lived from the age of four through his college years. This period includes his time in Drexel Hill, which is a part of Upper Darby Township.

We cruised past his family's first home in the Bywood section of town, his elementary school, nearby junior high school, and Delaware County Memorial Hospital where he worked for a few summers. Just around the corner from the hospital we stopped at Upper Darby High School, in Drexel Hill, and met with some avid Jim Croce fans. One young mother proudly showed us her newborn child whom she had named “James” in honor of Jim Croce.

From there, we drove to the Croce's Drexel Hill home, all the while telling stories of Jim's background and adventures in that area. It gave me a chance to prepare for the upcoming evening tribute concert where I would tell more stories to another enthusiastic crowd. However, our next stop was a solemn one, as we visited Jim's grave at the Haym Salomon Memorial Park, in  Frazer. There, we paid our graveside respects, while Chip, a fan who had traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah, played guitar and sang. On our return trip, we traded stories and watched videos of Jim and Maury performing their phenomenal music. Upon our arrival at the Comfort Inn, another cousin, Bob Croce, was there to greet us and join in the celebration.


Saturday, September 21

Maggie's Guitar and the Maxwells take the stage.

Master of Ceremonies Gene Shay with Mary Muehleisen, Maury's sister.

Mike DiBenedetto, who played with Jim in college on his his first album, performs.

Terry Cashman performs "Maury."

Jim's cousin, Steve Angelucci, presents Mary Muehleisen with rare reel-to-reel tapes of Maury performing.

The Villanova ASpires.

The crowd gives performers a standing ovation.

"Time in a Bottle" Tribute

A special Jim Croce Tribute show, entitled "Time In A Bottle" was held on the evening of Saturday, 21st September, at Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, which adjoins Upper Darby High School (Jim's High School).

The concert was a benefit show to raise money for a music scholarship at the school to be set up in Jim Croce's name, and was hosted by WXPN Folk Show host, Gene Shay. Gene has been deemed “The Dean of American folk DJs” by The Philadelphia Daily News and “the Grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music” by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The first act taking part were the Villanova Spires (http://www.vuspires.com/ ), an a-capella group from Villanova University that Jim attended. The original Villanova Spires were founded in 1961 by Tom Picardo (aka Tommy West) with help from his friend Tim Hauser (later, founder of  The Manhattan Transfer) . The following year, Jim Croce joined this new folk music group, which was part of The Villanova Singers. The Spires played guitars and bass and sang in four part harmonies, with three voices on each part. The result was a compelling vocal mix that sounded like multi-tracking in a recording studio. As the folk music revival spread, The Spires began to expand their repertoire. The group won the Eastern Collegiate Folk Competition at Rosemont College, which featured folk groups from all over the east coast. The Villanova Spires, under the name "The Coventry Lads," often performed at off-campus events. Later, Tommy (Picardo) West would become Jim Croce's producer.

This act was followed by Mike DiBenedetto, one of Jim's earliest musical partners and a college friend, who appeared on his very first album, "Facets". Mike performed four songs and recounted stories of his time with Jim Croce.

Last, but by no means least, were "Maggie's Guitar", the pre-eminent Jim Croce tribute band (www.maggiesguitar.com/Croce.htm) who performed many of Jim Croce's most famous hits, as well as songs by his lead guitarist, Maury Muehleisen, and his best friend, Sal Joseph.
Band member, Ron Gletherow is a London-born singer-songwriter who portrayed Croce on the British national television program "Stars in Their Eyes." The primetime program had an audience of more than 11 million viewers. "Jim Croce's music has always held a special meaning for me," says Ron. "The opportunity to help keep his music and memory alive is an honor."

Ron and his wife/fellow bandmember, Margaret, who actually first met at the 1998 gathering, were close friends of Sal Joseph. Joe Salviuolo, aka Sal Joseph met Croce in college, became his closest friend and is acknowledged as the man who helped launch his career by introducing him to Maury Muehleisen, who was integral to creating what became the "Croce sound."

Maggie's Guitar were joined onstage by Ian, Duncan and Aidan Maxwell of the popular Connecticut band, Madison Red.

Also in attendance was Terry Cashman, co-producer of all of Jim Croce's hit albums. One of the highlights of the evening was when Terry performed a very moving solo version of the song, "Maury", which he co-wrote with Tommy West in tribute to Maury Muehleisen, Jim's multi-talented guitarist and sideman who died with Jim in that tragic plane crash.

There were also two videos shown during the evening from musicians who were unable to attend.

The first was a message from Charles Fox, composer of the song "I Got A Name." along with many other hit songs including "Killing Me Softly." Charles was kind enough to tell the crowd how he came to choose Jim Croce to sing his song for the movie "Last American Hero," how he met Jim and what was to be an ironic message in the song.

The second was a video sent from Italian Jim Croce tribute atists, The Barbara Belloni Band. They sent along this video with clips of them performing three of Jim's songs in their own inimitable style.


Click the thumbnails to watch video from the "Time in a Bottle" tribute.

Sunday, September 22

Ron Gletherow sings at Maury's grave.
Goodbye Until Next Time

On the morning after the show, many gathered in the breakfast room of the hotel, still hyped up about all that had gone on the day before. The murmering turned to a cheer when the news broadcast on the big screen TV showed a story of the previous night's concert at Upper Darby, along with video clips of the show.

People said their goodbyes. Ron and Margaret Gletherow, along with 1998 gathering organizer, Tom Orecchio drove behind Mary Muehleisen, her husband Ray,and Chip Broyles as they made their way to Trenton, New Jersey, to pay a visit to the graveside of Maury Muehleisen. Both Chip and then Ron paid tribute to Maury by playing songs alongside his grave.