"You Don't Mess Around with Jim" is a 1972 single by Jim Croce from his album of the same name. The song was also Croce's debut single when it was released in June 1972 on ABC Records as ABC-11328. The song first aired on KHJ 930 AM in Los Angeles when ABC Records promotion man Marty Kupps took the single to the radio station where it appeared on the KHJ "30" chart at number 27 during the week of June 6th 1972. After spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song reached a peak of #8 the week ending Sept. 9, 1972. Croce performed the song on American Bandstand on Aug. 12, 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 68 song for 1972.
The lyrics are set at an underground pool hall on 42nd Street in New York City. "Big Jim" Walker, a pool hustler who is not too bright but is respected because of his tough reputation, his considerable strength and size, and his skill at pool, has formed a sort of gang of “bad folks” who regularly gather at night in the pool hall. Their recurring word of advice is as follows:
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
A fellow pool-shooter named Willie "Slim" McCoy comes from South Alabama to the pool hall to get his money back from Big Jim after being hustled out of it the previous week. When Big Jim comes in, McCoy ambushes him; McCoy stabs Big Jim with a knife in “about a hundred places” (to the point where “the only part that wasn't bloody was the soles of the big man's feet”) and shoots him at least twice, eventually killing him to the shock of the witnesses. It is implied McCoy now has his money back and the respect formerly granted to Big Jim, and the regulars at the pool hall have now changed their advice to strangers: "You don't mess around with Slim".
Croce tells a similar story (a much-feared tough guy who gets his comeuppance from someone even tougher) in his later hit single “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”