Sal Joseph 1940-2010
On Thursday, June 24th 2010, my dear friend Sal Joseph finally lost his battle with cancer. Sal had been in poor health for this past ten years or so, first with emphysema, then more recently with bladder cancer. He died as he would have wanted, at home surrounded by family and those who loved him.
For me, I lost a friend I first came to know ten years ago as the mysterious "Sal Joseph", the man who'd been best friends with my idol, Jim Croce, and the writer of the hit song "Thursday". Later on Sal became more like an older brother to me, a mentor always encouraging me with my music, someone who could always make me laugh, cheer me up when I was down and tell me stories of a time long ago that I could only imagine. He's back with Jim and Maury now, jamming and laughing and talking over old times.
And so the man who wrote the song "Thursday", which was recorded by his best friend Jim Croce on Thursday, 13th September 1973, one week before Jim died in that tragic plane crash on Thursday, 20th September, left this earth on June 24th...... a Thursday. God bless you Sal. I'll always miss you.
Any true Jim Croce fan knows his name. He's the mysterious "Sal Joseph", writer of the song "Thursday" that Jim recorded on his "I Got A Name" album. Other than that brief credit, very little is known about the man, otherwise known as Joe Salviuolo. His nickname in college was "Sal" and he later chose the full name "Sal Joseph" for songwriting credits, to simplify matters and to "Make sure they spelled my name right on my royalty checks".
Sal was born and raised in Southbridge, Massachusetts where he lived out his final years. He left for college in 1959 to attend Villanova University in Pennsylvania, where he attained his bachelor's degree in education. He later went on to achieve a master's degree in communications from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. He received a second master's degree, in folklore, from that university. During his time at Villanova, fate brought him together with Jim Croce and ultimately changed both of their lives. Very few people know what a vital role Sal played in the development of Jim Croce's musical career. Apart from being a strong influence on which direction Jim's music took, Sal was also a very dear friend.
Sal and Jim met in college, became best friends, played and sang together and continued that close friendship until the day Jim died in 1973. Sal was Jim's first record producer. He produced "Facets", which is now a collector's item, but the album never received recognition and was only sold locally and given to family and friends. It seemed that Jim's musical career was over - that is, until he met Maury Muehleisen.
It was Sal who introduced Jim to Maury. Maury was a student of Sal's while he was teaching communications at Glassboro State College. Sal instantly recognized Maury's musical genius and they became good friends, playing and singing together at local coffee houses. Sal was so sure of Maury's talents and potential that he quit his job as communications professor and gave up his tenure to manage Maury full time. Maury achieved some success as a solo artist and recorded an album,"Gingerbreadd", for "Capitol Records". Unfortunately, his record did not achieve the recognition it deserved,and Maury had hoped for. Around this time, Jim recorded an album with his wife, Ingrid, which also failed to gain success. Meanwhile, Maury was playing gigs, but needed a back-up guitarist. Sal suggested he try out his old college buddy, Jim Croce, as his side-kick. Their chemistry was instantaneous, and magical. The two became inseparable. Jim soon began writing new songs in a whole new style, incorporating the unique "Maury" sound into his songs. Soon Maury became Jim's back-up guitarist, and the rest is history.
As for Sal himself, he remained in the music business. In 1980 he worked with Rich Fagan, who went on to become a successful singer-songwriter, and now resides in Nashville. From there, in 1985, Sal went on to host and produce "Folkl Point", a series of folk concerts produced on video, along with Margaret Cafarelli (now Margaret Gletherow). All during this time Sal continued to write his music, from traditional folk songs to the most haunting ballads, including the poignant "Groundless", which he wrote about his friend, Jim Croce.
Sal's music contains echoes of both Jim and Maury, along with definitive undertones of Bob Dylan, yet it is a style which is immediately recognizable as his own.