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Jim Croce

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Jim Croce
Croce photographed by his wife Ingrid in 1972
Croce photographed by his wife Ingrid in 1972
Background information
Birth nameJames Joseph Croce
Born(1943-01-10)January 10, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedSeptember 20, 1973(1973-09-20) (aged 30)
Natchitoches, Louisiana, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1964–1973
(m. 1966)
Official nameJames Joseph "Jim" Croce (1943–1973)
DesignatedMarch 30, 2022

James Joseph Croce (/ˈkr/ KROH-chee;[1] January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, he released five studio albums and numerous singles. During this period, Croce took a series of odd jobs to pay bills while he continued to write, record and perform concerts. After Croce formed a partnership with songwriter and guitarist Maury Muehleisen in the early 1970s, his fortunes turned. Croce's breakthrough came in 1972, when his third album, You Don't Mess Around with Jim, produced three charting singles, including "Time in a Bottle", which reached No. 1 after Croce died. The follow-up album Life and Times included the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", Croce's only No. 1 hit during his lifetime.

On September 20, 1973, at the height of his popularity and the day before the lead single to his fifth album I Got a Name was released, Croce and five others died in a plane crash. His music continued to chart throughout the 1970s following his death. Croce's wife and early songwriting partner Ingrid continued to write and record after his death, and their son A. J. Croce became a singer-songwriter in the 1990s.

Early life and education[edit]

Croce was born on January 10, 1943, (although some sources say 1942)[2][3] in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Albert Croce and Flora Mary (Babusci) Croce, Italian Americans whose parents had immigrated from Trasacco in Abruzzo and Balsorano and Palermo in Sicily.[4][5]

Croce grew up in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia, and attended Upper Darby High School, where he graduated in 1960. He then attended Malvern Preparatory School for a year prior to enrolling at Villanova University, where he majored in psychology and minored in German.[6][7] He was a member of the Villanova Singers and the Villanova Spires. When the Spires performed off-campus or made recordings, they were known as The Coventry Lads.[8] Croce was also a student disc jockey at WKVU, which has since become WXVU.[9][10][11] In 1965, he graduated from Villanova with a Bachelor of Science in Social Studies degree.


Early career[edit]

Croce did not take music seriously until he studied at Villanova, where he became a leader of the campus singing group the Villanova Singers,[12] formed bands and performed at fraternity parties, coffeehouses and universities around Philadelphia, playing "anything that the people wanted to hear: blues, rock, a cappella, railroad music ... anything." Croce's band was chosen for a foreign exchange tour of Africa, the Middle East and Yugoslavia. He later said, "We just ate what the people ate, lived in the woods, and played our songs. Of course they didn't speak English over there but if you mean what you're singing, people understand." On November 29, 1963, Croce met his future wife Ingrid Jacobson at the Philadelphia Convention Hall during a hootenanny, where he was judging a contest.

Croce released his first album, Facets, in 1966, with 500 copies pressed. The album had been financed with a $500 ($4,695 in 2023 dollars[13]) wedding gift from Croce's parents, who set a condition that the money must be spent to make an album. They hoped that Croce would abandon music after the album failed and use his college education to pursue a more traditional profession.[14] However, the album proved to be a success, with every copy sold.


Croce married Jacobson in 1966 and converted from Catholicism to Judaism, as his wife was Jewish. They were married in a traditional Jewish ceremony.[15] Croce enlisted in the Army National Guard in New Jersey that same year to avoid being drafted and deployed to Vietnam, and served on active duty for four months, leaving for duty one week after his honeymoon.[16] Croce, who tended to resist authority, endured basic training twice.[17] He said that he would be prepared if "there's ever a war where we have to defend ourselves with mops."

From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Croce and his wife performed as a duo. Initially, their performances included songs by artists such as Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie, but they eventually began writing their own music. During this time, Croce secured his first long-term gig at a suburban bar and steakhouse in Lima, Pennsylvania called the Riddle Paddock. Croce's set list covered several genres, including blues, country, rock and roll and folk.

In 1968, the Croces were encouraged by record producer Tommy West to move to New York City. The couple spent time in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx and recorded their first album with Capitol Records. According to Ingrid, over the next two years, they drove more than 300,000 miles (480,000 kilometres),[18] playing small clubs and concerts on the college concert circuit promoting their album Jim & Ingrid Croce.

Becoming disillusioned by the music business and New York City, they sold all but one guitar to pay the rent and returned to the Pennsylvania countryside, settling in an old farm in Lyndell, where he played for $25 a night ($196 in 2023 dollars[13]). To earn additional money, Croce took odd jobs such as driving trucks, construction work and teaching guitar while continuing to write songs, often about the characters whom he would meet at local bars and truck stops and his experiences at work. These songs included "Big Wheel" and "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues."[19]


Jim Croce, In Concert

The Croces eventually returned to Philadelphia and Croce decided to be "serious" about becoming a productive member of society. He said: "I'd worked construction crews, and I'd been a welder while I was in college. But I'd rather do other things than get burned." His determination led to a job at Philadelphia R&B AM radio station WHAT, where Croce translated commercials into "soul". "I'd sell airtime to Bronco's Poolroom and then write the spot: 'You wanna be cool, and you wanna shoot pool ... dig it.'"

In 1970, Croce met classically trained pianist-guitarist and singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen through producer Joe Salviuolo, a friend of Croce's since college. Salviuolo had met Muehleisen when he was teaching at Glassboro State College in New Jersey and brought Croce and Muehleisen together at the production office of Tommy West and Terry Cashman in New York City. Initially, Croce backed Muehleisen on guitar, but gradually their roles reversed, with Muehleisen adding a lead guitar to Croce's music.[citation needed]

When his wife became pregnant, Croce became more determined to make music his profession. He sent a cassette of his new songs to a friend and producer in New York City in the hope that he could secure a record deal. After their son Adrian James (A. J.) was born in September 1971, Ingrid stayed at home while Croce toured to promote his music.

In 1972, Croce signed a three-record contract with ABC Records, releasing two albums, You Don't Mess Around with Jim and Life and Times. The singles "You Don't Mess Around with Jim", "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" and "Time in a Bottle" all received airplay. That same year, the Croce family moved to San Diego. Croce began appearing on television, including his national debut on American Bandstand[20] on August 12, The Tonight Show[21] on August 14 and The Dick Cavett Show on September 20 and 21.

Croce began touring the United States with Muehleisen, performing in large coffee houses, on college campuses and at folk festivals. However, his financial situation remained precarious. The record company had fronted him the money to record, and much of his earnings went to repay the advance. In February 1973, Croce and Muehleisen traveled to Europe, performing in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Monte Carlo, Zurich and Dublin and receiving positive reviews. Croce made television appearances on The Midnight Special, which he cohosted on June 15, and The Helen Reddy Show on July 19. His biggest single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", reached No. 1 on the American charts in July.

From July 16 through August 4, Croce and Muehleisen returned to London and performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test, on which they sang "Lover's Cross" and "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" from their upcoming album I Got a Name. Croce finished recording the album just a week before his death. While on tour, Croce grew increasingly homesick and decided to take a break from music and settle with Ingrid and A. J. when his Life and Times tour ended.[22][23] In a letter to Ingrid that arrived after his death, Croce told her that he had decided to quit music and wanted to write short stories and movie scripts as a career and withdraw from public life.[6][24]


On the night of Thursday, September 20, 1973, during Croce's Life and Times tour, which had been scheduled for 45 dates, and the day before his ABC single "I Got a Name" was released, Croce and five others were killed when their chartered Beechcraft E18S crashed into a tree during takeoff from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana.[25] Croce was 30 years old. Others killed in the crash were pilot Robert N. Elliott, Croce's bandmate Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens, manager and booking agent Kenneth D. Cortese and road manager Dennis Rast.[26][27][28] An hour before the crash, Croce had completed a concert at Northwestern State University's Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches. He was flying to Sherman, Texas for a concert at Austin College.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) named the probable cause as the pilot's failure to see the obstruction resulting from physical impairment and fog that had reduced his vision. The 57-year-old Elliott suffered from severe coronary artery disease and had run three miles to the airport from a motel. He had an ATP certificate, 14,290 hours total flight time and 2,190 hours in the Beech 18 type airplane.[29] A later investigation placed the sole blame on pilot error resulting from disorientation following his downwind takeoff into a "black hole,"[30] one of the known sensory illusions in aviation.

Croce was buried at Haym Salomon Memorial Park in Frazer, Pennsylvania.[31]


The album I Got a Name was released on December 1, 1973.[32] The posthumous release included three hits: "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues", "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" and the title song, which had been used as the theme to the film The Last American Hero, released two months prior to his death. "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" reached No. 9 on the singles chart.

While ABC had not originally released the song "Time in a Bottle" as a single, Croce's untimely death lent its lyrics, dealing with mortality and the wish to have more time, an additional resonance. The song subsequently received a large amount of airplay as an album track, and demand for a single release built. When it was eventually issued as a 7", it became Croce's second and final No. 1 hit.[33] After the single had finished its two-week run at the top in early January 1974, the album You Don't Mess Around with Jim became No. 1 for five weeks.[34] After seven weeks of its release, I Got a Name reached No. 2 behind You Don't Mess Around with Jim.[35][36]

A greatest hits album entitled Photographs & Memories was released in 1974. Later posthumous releases have included Home Recordings: Americana, The Faces I've Been, Jim Croce: Classic Hits, Down the Highway, Have You Heard: Jim Croce Live and DVD and CD releases of his television performances. In 1990, Croce was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[37]

Queen's 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack included the song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown"; its title and lyrics reference Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown".

In 2012, Ingrid Croce published a memoir about Croce entitled I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story.[38]

In 1985, Ingrid Croce opened Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar, a project she had jokingly discussed with Croce, in the historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. She owned and managed it until its closure on December 31, 2013. In December 2013, Ingrid Croce opened Croce's Park West on 5th Avenue in the Bankers Hill neighborhood near Balboa Park. She closed the restaurant in January 2016.[39]

In 2022, a Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring Croce was installed outside his farmhouse in Lyndell.[40][41]


Studio albums


  1. ^ Croce, Ingrid (November 2, 2012). An Afternoon With Ingrid Croce. Villanova University. Event occurs at 16:38. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  2. ^ "Today in Music: A look back at pop music".
  3. ^ "UPI Almanac for Friday, Jan. 10, 2020". United Press International. January 10, 2020. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020. … singer Jim Croce in 1943
  4. ^ Kening, Dan; O'Shea, David; Paris, Jay (June 1991). Too Young to Die. Publications International, Limited. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-88176-932-6. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  5. ^ "James Joseph Croce". Geni.com. January 10, 1943. James Albert Croce son of Pasquale Anthony Croce born May 14, 1888, in Trasacco (Abruzzo) and Carmella Croce born June 24, 1894, in Palermo (Sicily). Flora Mary Croce (Babusci) daughter of Massimo Babusci born August 13, 1884, in Trasacco (Abruzzo), and Bernice Babusci (Ippolito or Ippoliti) born circa 1888 in Balsorano (Abruzzo).
  6. ^ a b Cohen, Alex; Martínez, A (October 8, 2012). "New book looks at singer-songwriter Jim Croce's too-short life". 89.3 KPCC (Interview). Take Two. Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  7. ^ Hoekstra, Dave (December 16, 2012). "Jim Croce's hit had roots in boot camp". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago: Sun-Times Media, LLC. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  8. ^ "Inquirer Anniversary: Croces capture time in a bottle". The Philadelphia Inquirer. August 10, 2009. Archived from the original on August 13, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2011. Alt URL
  9. ^ Villanova Parents' Connection newsletter (Spring 2007).
  10. ^ Grottini, Kyle J. "Croce, James Joseph (Jim)". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  11. ^ Stevens, Candace (September 21, 2006). "Time to tune in to Villanova's own WXVU". The Villanovan (January 18, 2010 ed.). Archived from the original on July 6, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  12. ^ Proctor, Shawn (August 27, 2021). "Jim Croce '65 Image Discovered in Digital Library". Villanova University. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  13. ^ a b 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  14. ^ "Jim Croce News". music.yahoo.com. April 8, 2004. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  15. ^ Elizabeth Applebaum (1998). "Article: Photographs And Memories, A story of love, music and conversion". The Detroit Jewish News. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  16. ^ "Jim Croce". The Philadelphia Inquirer. August 13, 1967.
  17. ^ Wiser, Carl (May 1, 2007). "Ingrid Croce: Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts.com. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  18. ^ Croce's Restaurant- San Diego. Croces.com. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  19. ^ Croce, Ingrid; Croce, Jim. Jim Croce Anthology (Songbook): The Stories Behind the Songs.
  20. ^ americanbandstandperformerlist
  21. ^ johnnycarson.com
  22. ^ Weber, Bryan (2014). "Article". Jim Croce- The Official Site. Archived from the original on August 7, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  23. ^ Devenish, Colin (August 20, 2003). "Croce's Lost Recordings Due". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  24. ^ Everitt, Richard:Falling Stars: Air Crashes that Filled Rock and Roll Heaven (2004)
  25. ^ "Jim Croce Killed In Post -Concert Plane Crash" (PDF). Record World. September 29, 1973. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  26. ^ "Recording star, 5 others killed in crash of plane". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. The Associated Press. September 22, 1973. p. 9.
  27. ^ "Rock group killed". The Michigan Daily. Ann Arbor. The Associated Press. September 22, 1973. p. 2.
  28. ^ "Celebrity Plane Crashes". Check-Six.com. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  29. ^ NTSB Identification: FTW74AF017; 14 CFR Part 135 Nonscheduled operation of Robert Airways; Aircraft: Beech E18S, registration: N50JR (Report). National Transportation Safety Board.gov. September 20, 1973. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022.
  30. ^ Fifth Circuit Court (August 14, 1980). "Croce v. Bromley Corporation". Openjurist.org. F2d (623): 1084. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  31. ^ Alan, Ken (October 22, 2013). "Chester County's Rock History: Jim Croce and Chubby Checker". Main Line Today. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  32. ^ "Jim Croce Album I Got A Name". VH1. Archived from the original on December 25, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  33. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 7th edition, Billboard Books, 2000, p. 159.
  34. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top Pop Albums 1955–1985, Record Research Inc., 1985, p. 88, 505.
  35. ^ Grein, Paul (October 5, 1991). "Chart Beat" (PDF). Billboard. p. 4. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  36. ^ "January 26, 1974". Billboard 200.
  37. ^ "Songwriters Hall of Fame – Jim Croce". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  38. ^ Croce, Ingrid; Rock, Jimmy (2012). I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-82123-3.
  39. ^ Adams, Andie (January 25, 2016). "Croce's Park West Closes for Good". NBC San Diego. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  40. ^ "Jim Croce historical marker installed in Lyndell". Daily Local. March 30, 2022. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  41. ^ "Jim Croce Receives Historical Marker in Pennsylvania". Best Classic Bands. March 31, 2022. Retrieved January 21, 2023.

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