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James Joseph "Jim" Croce ( ; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an Americanmarker singer-songwriter. Between 1960 and 1973, Croce released six studio albums and eleven singles. His singles "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle" were both number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Croce died in a plane crash at the age of 30.


Early life

Jim Croce was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker. He graduated from Upper Darby High Schoolmarker in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1960. Croce attended Malvern Preparatory Schoolmarker, in Malvern, Pennsylvaniamarker, for one year, then went on to Villanova Universitymarker from which he graduated in 1965. Croce was a member of the Villanova Singers and Villanova Spires and was a student disc jockey at WXVU.

Croce met his future wife, Ingrid Jacobson, at a hootenanny at Convention Hall in Philadelphiamarker, where he was a judge for a contest. When they married, he converted to Judaism.

Early career

During the early 1960s, Croce formed a number of college bands, performed at coffee houses and universities, and later performed with his wife as a duo in the mid-1960s to early 1970s. At first, their performances included songs by Ian and Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, and Woody Guthrie, but in time they began writing their own music.

During this time, Croce got his first long-term gig at a rural bar and steak house in Lima, Pennsylvaniamarker, called the Riddle Paddock. Croce developed a rapport with audiences and built his musical repertoire to more than 3,000 songs. His set list included every genre from blues to country to rock 'n roll to folk, with tender love songs and traditional bawdy ballads, always introduced with a story and an impish grin.

In 1968, Jim and Ingrid Croce were encouraged by record producer Tommy West to move to New York Citymarker to record their first album with Capitol Recordsmarker. During the next two years, they drove more than 300,000 miles playing small clubs and concerts on the college concert circuit promoting their album Jim & Ingrid Croce.

Then, disillusioned by the music business and New York City, Croce sold all but one guitar to pay the rent, and they returned to the Pennsylvania countryside where Croce got a job driving trucks and doing construction to pay the bills, while continuing to write songs, often about the characters he enjoyed meeting at the local bars and truck stops.


In 1970, Croce met the classically trained pianist/guitarist, singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen from Trenton, New Jerseymarker through Joe Salviuolo (aka Sal Joseph). Salviuolo had been friends with Croce when they attended Villanova University together, and Salviuolo later discovered Maury when he was teaching at Glassboro State Collegemarker in New Jersey. Salviuolo brought the Croce and Muehliesn duo together at the production office of Tommy West and Terry Cashman in New York City. Initially, Croce backed Muehleisen on guitar at his gigs. But in time, their roles reversed, with Muehleisen adding lead guitar to Croce's down-to-earth music.

In 1972, Croce signed to a three-record deal with ABC Records and released two LPs, You Don't Mess Around with Jim and Life & Times that same year. The singles "You Don't Mess Around with Jim", "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)", and "Time in a Bottle" (written for his then-unborn son, A. J. Croce) all received airplay. Croce's biggest single, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", hit #1 on the American charts in the summer of 1973, selling two million copies.


Croce, 30, and Muehleisen, 24, died in a small commercial plane crash on September 20, 1973, shortly before his ABC single, "I Got a Name" was to be released.

Croce had just completed a concert in Natchitoches, Louisianamarker, and was flying to Sherman, Texasmarker for a concert at Austin Collegemarker. The pilot and all passengers (Croce; Muehleisen; Croce's booking agent Kenneth D. Cortose; George Stevens, the comic who was the show's warm-up act; and Dennis Rast, another passenger) were killed instantly at 10:45 PM EDT on September 20, 1973, less than an hour after the end of the concert. Upon takeoff, the Beechcraft E18 plane did not gain enough altitude to clear a pecan tree at the end of the runway, which investigators said was the only tree for hundreds of yards. The official report from the NTSB hints that the charter pilot, Robert Newton Elliott, who had severe coronary artery disease and had run a portion of the three miles to the airport from a motel, may have suffered a heart attack. A later investigation placed sole blame for the accident on pilot error.

Croce was buried in Haym Salomon Memorial Park, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvaniamarker.


The album I Got A Name was released on December 1, 1973. Croce had only finished recording the album eight days before his death. The posthumous release included three hits: the title song, "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues", and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song".

News of the death of the singer also sparked renewed interest in Croce's first two albums. The song "Time in a Bottle" had been featured in the ABC-TV movie "She Lives!", which aired on September 12, 1973; that appearance generated significant interest in Croce and his music in the week just prior to his death. Three months later, "Time in a Bottle", originally released on Croce's first album the year before, became a #1 hit single (the third posthumous chart-topping song of the Rock Era following Otis Redding's " The Dock of the Bay" and Janis Joplin's recording of "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster). A “Greatest Hits” package released in 1974 also proved to be extraordinarily popular.

Later posthumous releases have included Jim Croce Home Recordings, Facets, Jim Croce: Classic Hits, and DVD and CD releases of Croce's television performances, Have You Heard – Jim Croce Live.

Croce's catalog became a staple of radio play for years, and is still receiving significant airplay in the first decade of the 21st century. In 1990, Croce was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Croce's son Adrian James is an accomplished singer-songwriter, musician and pianist, performing under the name A. J. Croce. He has released six CDs in his career.

Croce's widow Ingrid Croce owns and manages "Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar", located in the historic Gaslamp Quarter in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker. She opened the business in 1985.

Tributes and references

"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" inspired Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury to write the song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" for the band's third album, Sheer Heart Attack, released a year after Croce died.

The Righteous Brothers pay tribute to Croce in their song "Rock And Roll Heaven". He is also mentioned in Stephen King's You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, a short story about a town populated by late music legends. The title of King's short story comes from a line in the Righteous Brothers song.

Gino Vanelli wrote the song "Poor Happy Jimmy" as a tribute to Croce.

In 2008, Jim Croce appeared as a character in "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?", the fourth episode of the American remake of Life on Mars, set in May, 1973. Detective Sam Tyler warns him to avoid small airplanes, a reference to his death four months later.


Studio and live albums


  • Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits (1974)
  • Down the Highway (1975)
  • Time in a Bottle: Jim Croce's Greatest Love Songs (1976)
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown: Jim Croce's Greatest Character Songs (1978)
  • The Very Best of Jim Croce (1979)
  • The 50th Anniversary Collection (1992) - 2 CDs
  • 24 Karat Gold in a Bottle (1994)
  • The Definitive Collection: "Time in a Bottle" (1999) - 2 CDs
  • Words and Music (1999)
  • Classic Hits (2004)


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1972 "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" 8 4 You Don't Mess Around with Jim
"Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" 17 10
1973 "One Less Set of Footsteps" 37 41 27 Life and Times
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" 1 1 3
"I Got a Name" 10 4 8 5 I Got a Name
"Time in a Bottle" 1 1 1 1 You Don't Mess Around with Jim
"It Doesn't Have to Be That Way" 64 Life and Times
1974 "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" 9 1 68 4 I Got a Name
"Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" 32 9 18 2
1976 "Chain Gang Medley" 63 29 42 Down the Highway
"Mississippi Lady" 110
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  1. NLS/BPH: Other Writings, Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  2. Villanova Parents' Connection newsletter (Spring 2007)
  3. Famous Jewish Catholics
  5. FTW74AF017
  6. VH1 Artist Discography at
  7. IMDB entry for "She Lives" at

External links

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