It’s late July of 1973 and we’re driving by the Hampton Roads Coliseum north of Norfolk, Virginia. The sign says a concert with Loggins & Messina and Jim Croce is coming August 6th. Our friends, Don & Linda MacLeod, are with us. We decide to pull in and buy 4 tickets…and we get the second row! The Coliseum was just 3 years old at the time and a beautiful venue.
Jim Croce opens the show accompanied by another singer-guitarist Maury Muehleisen. They are so good. Of course they play Croce’s hits…”Operator”, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” (a #1 hit), and other songs (like “Time In A Bottle”) from his first two albums. It’s really cool to hear some excellent songs from Croce’s almost finished album. They do about five new songs, including “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song”, “I Got A Name” and “Working At The Car Wash Blues”…which Croce actually introduces as having the world’s longest song title…”Steadily Depressin’, Low Down Mind Messin’, Working At The Car Wash Blues”.
We can tell the new album will be great, and we’re so impressed with the two performers that we wonder if Loggins & Messina could be as good. (More on Jim Croce later.)
Kenny Loggins comes out with his acoustic guitar and sits down at the edge of the stage. His voice and guitar fill the auditorium, no worries about quality.
Jim Messina joins Kenny, and that sounds even better. As they go into another song, the other musicians make their way behind them, and soon the whole band joins in. Wow, they sound just the way a country-rock band should!
I recognized Al Garth in the band (from photos and credits on the backs of albums). He played violin and reed instruments. I’m guessing the other players that night were also session pros.
Jim Messina had been a member of Buffalo Springfield in their latter stages, and had produced for them, as well as his group Poco. By 1971, he was producing the first solo album for Kenny Loggins. As Messina took a more active role, it was decided to bill the album as “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina” and the title was Sittin’ In. Best cuts include…”Danny’s Song”, “Nobody But You”, “House at Pooh Corner”, and “Listen To A Country Song”.
By their second album, they were definitely a duo. Loggins And Messina was released in November of 1972. “Your Mamma Don’t Dance” was a fun, uptempo hit, and other solid cuts were “Thinking Of You”, “Lady Of My Heart”, “Angry Eyes”, and “Whiskey”.
At the time of the concert in 1973, they were on the rise with another hit single, “My Music”, and about to release their best album, Full Sail. It also included “A Love Song” (another hit for Anne Murray, after “Danny’s Song”), “Travelin’ Blues”, “Watching The River Run” and “Sailing The Wind”. I remember they were on the cover of the Rolling Stone with the title “There’s gold in the middle of the road”.
Loggins and Messina’s success continued, and three more studio albums followed, but I think we were lucky enough to catch L&M at a great time. The crowd loved them.
As fans left their seats and came forward for the encores, we had to move to the back. We didn’t want my wife, Jeannette, to get pushed against the stage, because she was eight months pregnant. It wasn’t our future son’s first concert, we had been to other concerts in recent months, but this was the best one.
There was horrible tragedy for Jim Croce and Maury Meuhleisen. The month following the concert, on September 20th, 1973, both were killed when their pilot took off in foggy darkness and flew their small plane into a tree. Croce was only 30, and Meuhleisen (who was also a singer-songwriter) was just 24. Besides the terrible personal loss for their families, it was a big loss for music fans. Their work on the posthumously released album, I Got A Name, showed a maturing of their writing and singing. Jim Croce and Maury Meuhleisen were certainly poised for much more success.