You Don't Mess Around with Jim

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You Don't Mess Around with Jim
Jim Croce - You Don't Mess Around with Jim.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 1972[1]
StudioThe Hit Factory, New York City
GenreFolk rock
LabelABC (USA)
Vertigo (UK)
ProducerTerry Cashman, Tommy West
Jim Croce chronology
Jim & Ingrid Croce
You Don't Mess Around with Jim
Life & Times
Singles from You Don't Mess Around with Jim
  1. "You Don't Mess Around with Jim"
    Released: July 1972
  2. "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)"
    Released: October 1972
  3. "Time in a Bottle"
    Released: November 1973
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB−[3]

You Don't Mess Around with Jim is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Jim Croce, released in April 1972.

History and release[edit]

The album was recorded over a three to four-week period for approximately $18,000, with most funding coming from the PolyGram Group in Baarn, the Netherlands, on the basis of hearing an 8-song demo tape assembled by production team Cashman & West. The deal with PolyGram was made after team attorney Phil Kurnit approached a contact within the record company who then had PolyGram executives listen to the demo tape. After having the finished album rejected by up to 40 record labels, Croce was signed to ABC Records after Cashman & West had a chance meeting with ABC promotion man Marty Kupps. Kupps urged label head Jay Lasker to sign Croce after hearing cuts from a cassette tape of the finished album.

The record spent 93 weeks on the charts, longer than any other Jim Croce album. Due to the strong performance of the posthumous single release "Time in a Bottle" (#1 pop, No. 1 AC), You Don't Mess Around with Jim was the best selling album in the U.S. for five weeks in early 1974.[4] It was listed at No. 6 on the 1974 Cash Box yearend album charts.[5] Two singles were originally released from the album in 1972: the title track (#8 pop) and "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" (#17 pop).

The album was issued on CD by the Rhino Flashbacks record label on September 30, 2008.


The lyrics of the title track concern the fate of a 'pool-shooting son-of-a-gun' by the name of 'Big' Jim Walker when his 'mark', Willie 'Slim' McCoy, from South Alabama, shows up to get a refund from being hustled or get revenge. The song is notable for the line, "You don't tug on Superman's cape/You don't spit into the wind/You don't pull the mask off that ol' Lone Ranger/And you don't mess around with Jim." However, after the song ends with Jim being thoroughly thrashed by his victim ("he'd been cut 'n 'bout a hundred places/ and he'd been shot in a couple more"), the chorus now goes, "You don't mess around with Slim."


The song "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" has been covered by Ty Herndon on What Mattered Most, Josh Turner on Long Black Train, Donna Fargo on My Second Album and Charlie Major on Jim Croce: A Nashville Tribute. It was also covered, along with other Croce compositions, by Jerry Reed on his 1980 album Jerry Reed Sings Jim Croce.

Kid Rock covered "Box #10" in 1995 as part of The Bootleg Series. Jesse Malin covered "Operator" on his 2008 album On Your Sleeve. On an episode of the ABC drama Eli Stone, Victor Garber performed this song in one of Eli's visions.

Tori Amos covered "Operator" live in 2005 while on her Original Sinsuality Tour. An official live recording can be found in The Original Bootlegs box set.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Jim Croce.

1."You Don't Mess Around with Jim"3:02
2."Tomorrow's Gonna Be a Brighter Day"2:57
3."New York's Not My Home"3:10
4."Hard Time Losin' Man"2:29
5."Photographs and Memories"2:09
6."Walkin' Back to Georgia"2:53
7."Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)"3:50
8."Time in a Bottle"2:29
9."Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)"2:46
10."Box No. 10"2:46
11."A Long Time Ago"2:53
12."Hey Tomorrow"2:47
2006 edition – Disc 1[A]
13."Which Way Are You Going'"2:20
14."Mississippi Lady"3:59
15."Country Girl"1:49
16."King's Song"3:21
17."Chain Gang Medley"4:29
18."Ol' Man River"2:26
2006 edition – Disc 2
1."Maybe Tomorrow"2:30
2."Stone Walls"2:58
3."Railroads and Riverboats"3:12
4."(And) I Remember Her"2:49
5."More Than That Tomorrow"2:44
6."The Way We Used to Be"2:30
7."Cotton Mouth River"2:00
8."Circle of Style" (featuring Ingrid Croce)2:09
9."Carnival of Pride" (featuring Ingrid Croce)1:53
10."Wear Out the Turnpike" (featuring Ingrid Croce)2:14
11."Can't Wait" (featuring Ingrid Croce)1:53
12."(The) Migrant Worker" (featuring Ingrid Croce)1:54
13."Railroad Song" (featuring Ingrid Croce)2:55
14."Child of Midnight"2:48


  • A ^ Tracks 1–12 correspond to the original 1972 album


  • Jim Croce – guitar, rhythm guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Maury Muehleisen – lead acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • The Briggs – backing vocals
  • Terry Cashman – backing vocals on "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels"
  • Tommy West – bass, percussion, piano, rhythm guitar, keyboards, electric piano, backing vocals
  • Harry Boyle - guitar on "Hey Tomorrow"
  • Joe Macho – bass
  • Jim Ryan – bass on "Box #10"
  • Gary Chester – drums
  • Ellie Greenwich, Tasha Thomas - backing vocals
  • Peter Dino - arrangements
  • Bruce Tergesen - recording and mixing engineer
  • Paul Wilson - photography

Chart history[edit]

Year Chart Position
1974 US Billboard 200 1
1974 Canadian RPM 100 1
Year Single Chart Position
1972 "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" Billboard Hot 100 8
1972 "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" Easy Listening 9
1972 "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" Billboard Hot 100 17
1973 "Time in a Bottle" Billboard Hot 100 1
1973 "Time in a Bottle" Easy Listening 1


Country Certifications
United States Gold


  1. ^ Strong, Martin Charles & John Peel The Great Rock Discography[dead link]
  2. ^ Ruhlmann, William. You Don't Mess Around with Jim – Jim Croce at AllMusic. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: C". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 23, 2019 – via
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top Pop Albums 1955–1985, Record Research Inc., 1985, p. 88, 505.
  5. ^ "The Cash Box 1974 yearend album charts". Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.