Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
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|"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"|
|Single by Jim Croce|
|from the album Life and Times|
|B-side||"A Good Time Man Like Me Ain't Got No Business (Singin' the Blues)"|
|Released||March 20, 1973|
|Producer(s)||Terry Cashman, Tommy West|
|Jim Croce singles chronology|
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" is a song written by American folk rock singer Jim Croce. Released as part of his 1973 album Life and Times, the song was a Number One pop hit for him, spending two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1973. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1973.
Croce was nominated for two 1973 Grammy awards in the Pop Male Vocalist and Record of the Year categories for "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown". It was his last number-one single before his death on September 20 of that year.
The song's title character is a tall man from the South Side of Chicago whose size, attitude, and tendency to carry weapons have given him a fearsome reputation. He is said to dress in fancy clothes and wear diamond rings, and to own a custom Lincoln Continental and a Cadillac Eldorado, implying he has a lot of money. One day in a bar he makes a pass at a pretty, married woman named Doris, whose jealous husband proceeds to beat Leroy brutally in the ensuing fight, which Leroy loses badly.
The story of a widely feared man being bested in a fight is similar to that of Croce's earlier song "You Don't Mess Around With Jim."
Croce's inspiration for the song was a friend he met in his brief time in the US Army:
I met him at Fort Dix, New Jersey. We were in lineman (telephone) school together. He stayed there about a week, and one evening he turned around and said he was really fed up and tired. He went AWOL, and then came back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. They put handcuffs on him and took him away. Just to listen to him talk and see how 'bad' he was, I knew someday I was gonna write a song about him.
He told a variation of this story on The Helen Reddy Show in July 1973:
This is a song about a guy I was in the army with... It was at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, that I met this guy. He was not made to climb the tree of knowledge, as they say, but he was strong, so nobody'd ever told him what to do, and after about a week down there he said "Later for this" and decided to go home. So he went AWOL—which means to take your own vacation—and he did. But he made the mistake of coming back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. I don't know if you've ever seen handcuffs put on anybody, but it was SNAP and that was the end of it for a good friend of mine, who I wrote this tune about, named Leroy Brown.
Croce explained the chorus reference to Leroy Brown being "meaner than a junkyard dog":
Yeah, I spent about a year and a half driving those $29 cars, so I drove around a lot looking for a universal joint for a '57 Chevy panel truck or a transmission for a '51 Dodge. I got to know many junkyards well, and they all have those dogs in them. They all have either an axle tied around their necks or an old lawnmower to keep 'em at least slowed down a bit, so you have a decent chance of getting away from them.
Others have recently postulated that the song is a vague reference to Don Deadrick Robey who ended up in 1973 as a consultant to the ABC record label. Although Robey was from Houston, he had a reputation of using violence to control musicians, and demonstrated his good fortune by wearing diamond rings. Croce's death was shrouded in mystery, and it occurred in northern Louisiana in an area under the influence of associates of Robey. Robey often gambled at nearby Louisiana Downs, carried a gun, and once tried to enter a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby.
On Croce's final album, I Got a Name, a "Leroy Brown" is credited as a backing vocalist.
The song inspired Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury (who cited Croce as one of his artistic inspirations) to write the song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" for the band's third album, Sheer Heart Attack, released a year after Croce died.
Lyrics for the song Rock n Roll Heaven, popularized by the Righteous Brothers, recall the song and Croce.
- Frank Sinatra recorded a cover version of the song. His version was released as a single from Sinatra's 1974 album Some Nice Things I've Missed, and peaked on the pop charts at #83.
- Country music artist Anthony Armstrong Jones released a cover on Epic Records in 1973, reaching #33 on the U.S. country charts with it.
- Dolly Parton performed the song twice on her 1976–77 TV series Dolly! (although, in her version, she changed the song's locale from Chicago to Nashville).
- Punk rock band The Max Levine Ensemble covered it on their CD, It's Entertainment!
- Jerry Reed recorded two versions of the song: first on his 1975 album Mind Your Love and again on his Jim Croce tribute album Jerry Reed Sings Jim Croce in 1980.
- Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1990 album Singalong with Little Willie Littlefield.
- Kim Carnes covered it on the compilation album Jim Croce: A Nashville Tribute in 1997.
- Celtic Thunder's Ryan Kelly covered the song for the album and concert DVD It's Entertainment!.
- Paul Lynde performed this song with the substitution "a water Pistol" in place of "razor in his shoe" on a Sandy Duncan show special
- Sonny & Cher had a live action with themselves offering Leroy Brown a drink in a cartoon version of this song on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour
- No More Kings
- Sylvie Vartan recorded a French language version entitled "Bye bye Leroy Brown" in 1974.
- Dean Martin performed this song at Westchester Premier Theatre, New York, 1977.
- The song can also be heard In Home Alone 3.
- Guy Lombardo's Orchestra performed the song on a New Year's Eve TV broadcast, only the lyric was changed to "the whole darn town".
- Vinnie Jones performed the song on the television show TOTP2 in December 2002.
- Jerry Lee Lewis performed the song on his The Knox Phillips Sessions - The Unreleased Recordings
- Amaya Uranga performed a cover in Spanish (called "Malasombra") in her 1988 album "Sobre El Latido De La Ciudad".
- Buck Owens performed this song on Hee Haw in 1974 and replaced the word damn with darn.
7" Single (ABC-11359)
- "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" – 3:02
- "A Good Time Man Like Me Ain't Got No Business (Singin' The Blues)" – 2:03
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" was released in April 1973 and peaked at number one on the American charts three months later. It was still on the charts on September 20 when Croce died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was the second #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart to include a curse word ("damn") in its lyrics, after the "Theme from Shaft".
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