You Don't Mess Around with Jim (song)

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"You Don't Mess Around with Jim"
You Don't Mess Around With Jim Single.jpg
Single by Jim Croce
from the album You Don't Mess Around with Jim
B-side"Photographs and Memories"
ReleasedJune 1972
Format7" 45 RPM
RecordedOctober 11, 1971; The Hit Factory
(New York City)
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Jim Croce
Producer(s)Terry Cashman, Tommy West
Jim Croce singles chronology
"You Don't Mess Around with Jim"
"Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)"

"You Don't Mess Around with Jim" is a 1972 single by Jim Croce from his album of the same name.[1] 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 6, 1972. After spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song peaked at No. 8 on the week ending September 9, 1972. Croce performed the song on American Bandstand on August 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:[2]

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 player named Willie "Slim" McCoy comes from south Alabama to the pool hall to get his money back from Jim after being hustled out of it the previous week. When Jim comes in, McCoy ambushes and kills him, stabbing him 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 shooting him "in a couple more". It is implied that McCoy now has his money back as well as the respect formerly granted to Jim, and the regulars at the pool hall have now changed their advice to strangers: "You don't mess around with Slim".

The song is noted for its spoken recitation, which is heard following the third verse and chorus:

Yeah, Big Jim got his hat
Find out where it's at
And it's not hustlin' people strange to you
Even if you do got a two-piece custom-made pool cue

This is followed by the repeat of the Chorus and the repeated Coda before the song's fade.

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".

In popular culture[edit]

  • On an episode of the ABC drama Eli Stone, Victor Garber performed this song in one of Eli's visions.[3]
  • The song was featured in an episode of The Greatest American Hero "Don't Mess Around With Jim". It also inspired the episode title.[4]
  • Gravediggaz' Grym Reaper's first couple of lines from “Here Comes the Grave Diggaz” (You don't pull on Superman's cape/You don't spit into the wind/You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger) are from the song "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," originally by Jim Croce.
  • It was played during the Life on Mars episode "All the Young Dudes".[5]
  • Josh Turner covered the song on his album Long Black Train.
  • Poison covered the song as a bonus track on the 2006 remastered edition of their album Look What The Cat Dragged In.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic references the song in his own song, "CNR" from the album Alpocalypse ("You can spit in the wind or tug on Superman's cape, but Lord no, you just don't mess around with CNR").
  • The song featured in the first episode of ABC Family series Bunheads.
  • The song was featured in Episode 3 of Season 2 of Stranger Things, where Hopper puts the song on before he and Eleven go to work cleaning his cabin.

Live performances[edit]

Live versions of the song have been released on both of Croce's live albums, Have You Heard: Jim Croce Live, and Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour.

Track listing[edit]

7" single (ABC-11328)[6]

  1. "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" – 3:00
  2. "Photographs and Memories" – 2:03

Chart performance[edit]

See also[edit]