Jim Croce

The official Jim Croce Fan Page! The official website is www.jimcroce.com

"I'm no missionary," says Jim Croce about his songs, "and I can't wear any armor, either. I just gotta be the way I am."

Jim's musical career started when he was five years old, learning to play "Lady of Spain" on the accordion. He says, "I was the original underachiever. I'd shake that thing and smile, but I was sort of a late bloomer." He didn't really take music too seriously until 1964, while he was attending Villanova College in Pennsylvania. There he formed various bands, doing fraternity parties and playing "anything that the people wanted to hear: blues, rock, acapella, railroad music...anything." One of those bands was chosen for a foreign exchange tour of Africa and the Middle East. "We had a good time," Jim recalls. "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."

He returned to Philadelphia and he had decided to be "serious." But it was hard to make a living playing in a band, and his previous employment experiences had lost their appeal: "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." Like most underachieving accordion players, he had a hard time finding the right other things. His determination to be serious ("I even got a pair of shoes that look like the Ace of Spades, with holes in them") led to a job at a Philadelphia R&B radio station, where he 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).'" Increasingly frustrated, he quit to teach guitar at a summer camp ("to people who had to wear loafers 'cause they couldn't tie their shoes'") and even enlisted in the U.S. Army. He didn't have a very illustrious military career, but says he's prepared if there's ever a war where we have to defend ourselves with mops.

Back to the radio station again, briefly ("that was about the end of my seriousness"), and then he tried teaching "special education" to discipline problem students in a Philadelphia high school. Finally he decided to give his music a chance.

He'd been playing some pretty tough bars ("I can still get my guitar off faster than anyone else"), then he and his wife, Ingrid, moved to New York and began working coffeehouses. Tommy West, who had attended Villanova College with Jim, introduced them to Terry Cashman, and in 1969, Cashman and West produced their album, Jim and Ingrid. They remained on the coffeehouse circuit for a year and a half, involving themselves in the music business and collecting guitars. But, they soon became discouraged by the agitation and pressures of city life, and moved to Lyndell, Pennsylvania, where they had their son, Adrian James. Ingrid learned to bake bread and to can fruits and vegetables and Jim, like a rich lady selling her jewels, sold the guitars he had accumulated, one by one. When the guitars ran out, he worked construction again and did some studio work in New York. "Mostly background 'oohs' and 'ahhs' for commercials. I kept thinking, 'maybe tomorrow I'll sing some words.'"

His first album, You Don't Mess Around With Jim, was an instant success. Jim immediately became a top bill club and concert performer and the title song and "Operator" pulled from the album, were both highly successful singles. The friendliness and sincerity of Jim's performances have endeared him to a wide variety of audiences.

"Well," laughed Jim, "I'm glad I'm not running anymore jackhammers. It's a lot easier to have a good time. I think music should make people sit back and want to touch each other...I just hope people get a kick out of it."

Since the first album, things have been strictly uphill for Jim. "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," which was pulled from the second LP entitled Life and Times reached the top of the national pop charts before it went Gold. Jim's latest album is called I've Got a Name and the title cut is part of the soundtrack for 20th Century Fox's new film The Last American Hero. Many other things are being planned for the unlikely hero of Philly, including appearances in films as well as more soundtrack offers.

Jim Croce - "I've Got a Name." He certainly has.

(Writer unknown, ©1973 ABC Records, Inc.)

Jim’s Croce’s “State Department Tour”; a letter from Gene!

When Jim graduated from Villanova University in 1965, he traveled for the State Department as a “musical” cultural liaison.

One member of his band wrote to me to explain where, what and how they did it!

Dear Ingrid,

Mind you, after 50+ years my memory sometimes struggles with details. To the best of my recall, that photo was taken when we were in Philadelphia prior to departing on the tour. It was intended to be a stock photo we could give to host student organizations who might need a picture they could use as publicity prior to our actual performances. To my knowledge, it was not widely used. Most of the posters (which I sadly don’t have copies of) were all text and didn’t include the pictures. As I’m sure Jim described, we were on a whirlwind schedule with usually only 4 to 6 days in any one country. There wasn’t a lot of down time but we had so much enthusiasm for the travel we didn’t really care. We used the train trips or the bus rides to refine songs, joke around or simply to enjoy the adventure.

One event you may not have heard about was our delay in Tripoli. We were flying from Beirut to Tunis and the plane (Egyptair, I think) had a stop in Tripoli. It was scheduled to be a short stop but after we landed and taxied to the terminal, another plane – a twin engined British military plane – landed on the airport’s only runway and the nose gear collapsed skidding it to a stop. When it became clear that there would be a substantial delay before the plane could be moved and we could take off again, the flight attendants offered everyone the chance to deplane and go into the terminal to use the facilities, etc. We had developed a cordial conversation with the flight steward (Husain) who told us we didn’t need to deplane if we didn’t want to. Consequently we stayed on the plane and after he learned we were on a musical tour, he retrieved our instruments from the luggage compartment and we made it into a mini-concert. He turned out to be a very accomplished harmonica player and he pulled out his harmonica and we jammed together. He even pulled the emergency escape windows over the wings so we could at least get some air flow through the cabin of the plane. (of course we put the windows back in before we took off.). It was a delightful surprise in the midst of the trip.



I Am Who I Am

Before Jim and I met, I was a “city girl”. I lived across the street from Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square attended Friends Select, Masterman, and Girls High School. I was practicing Gymnastics, wanting to be on the Olympic Team. But when my mother passed away from breast cancer at thirty-six years old, everything changed!

My twin sister, Phyllis and I moved from Philadelphia to the suburbs to live with our father and step-mother Florence. My parents had been divorced since I was five and back then divorce was not only rare but scandalous. I had grown up fast in the midst of court battles, gone to multiple schools, lived with different family members and while I always wanted to live with my dad, it was a bittersweet move when my mother passed away.

When I met Jim, I was a high school sophomore, transforming from a 16 year-old cart wheeling cheerleader at Springfield High, into a Joan Baez inspired folkie. Jim was a talented and mischievous sophomore at Villanova University, always finding ways to get out of doing what he was supposed to do, so he could play music and have fun!

During our “practices” we’d listen to records to learn songs and get ideas for our own music. From Bessie Smith and Fats Waller to Phil Ochs, Johnny Cash and Ian and Sylvia. Jim was really comfortable with story songs, even back then. He was always ready to use humor to cut through the tension and avoid confrontation at any cost.

When Jim wanted to write with me, I shared my poem with him, “I Am Who I Am”. He put a melody together and played it for me right on the spot. This was the first song we wrote together…but there were many, many, more to come!

I Am Who I Am

Perhaps I’ll never show this world all I could be:
I just can’t sing to any man the song he wants to hear.
And I know that some won’t like me,
others try to be my friend;
But I’m all of me and that’s all that I am.

And if life is for the living,
then why can’t men be real,
‘Stead of hidin’ in their costumes,
Forgettin’ how to feel,
Forgettin’ how to feel

We still live in a time where manners cover what is real;
There’s a basic fact of life that the times cannot conceal.
That is some are masqueraders,
others live in their facade
But I’m what I am,
I cannot be what I am not.

And if life is for the living,
then why can’t men be real,
‘Stead of hidin’ in their costumes,
Forgettin’ how to feel,
Forgettin’ how to feel.

I may be to honest and offend those who pretend;
I don’t claim I’m always right, or that I’m everybody’s friend.
Perhaps for them it’s easier
to be what they are not;
But I’m what I am,
and I just can’t play that part.

And if life is for the living,
Then why can’t men be real,
‘Stead of hidin’ in their costumes,
Forgettin’ how to feel,
Forgettin’ how to feel.


You Don’t Mess Around with Jim

The night our band won the hootenanny at Convention Hall, there was another judge for the contest, Jim’s friend and later our producer, Tommy Picardo (West).

Jim and Tommy met in 1961 when they were both students at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Jim was a freshman on his way to his first Glee Club rehearsal, and Tommy, a junior was the leader of the Glee Club.

Tommy noticed this guy walking into practice with a 12-string guitar and asked Jim if he could play it. He had wanted one since he had seen the Kingston Trio play a twelve string in concert. And on that day Jim and Tommy formed an instant friendship, along with another cohort, Joe Salvioulo, Sal, was a flamboyant folklorist, singer-songwriter who, like Tommy, engaged Jim’s humor. All three spent hours together at the Croce’s home, playing music, philosophizing about the world at large and enjoying the delicious Italian treats Jim’s mom would prepare for them.

Tommy and Jim played together in many bands and later Tommy wrote, “We were even in a rock and roll band together. We used to do songs like “Big Boy Pete” and “Searchin”.

“Big Boy Pete” is really the musical forefather of “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.” If you really check it out, the lyrics involves a bar room fight and one guy gets killed….it kind of set Jim up to write those funky things later on. Jim’s own experience around pool halls was “enhanced” in 1969 when he got a job at a black radio station in West Philadelphia, to support his “music habit” and to pay the bills. He liked to introduce “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” this way in concert.

“I remember a couple of things that really got me interested in the pool shark syndrome. The English have that fancy billiard, and you walk around with a brandy glass and stuff like that. But the poolrooms over here are somethin’ else. There used to be a place in Philadelphia that was an institution, called Allingers. I went up there one time to watch the best of the best, and they were gonna have one of these matches up there. It wasn’t gonna be on TV; it was gonna be one of those underground things.

There were these lights over’ the pool tables, and all these little bent people. ‘Cause when you shoot a lotta pool ya ’know, you get a little bent. And I said something to somebody, and somebody said something to me and I said something back and before I knew it I went down two flights of concrete steps, hitting the steel lips on my backbone, all the way to the subway. Ssshhheww! That sure put me into-a- world… I mean that’s a whole different world by itself, the world of pain. Some people get off on it, the warning system of the human body, and you get to see the American phenomenon of pool cue justice. http://bit.ly/2odWthU

American Music Award 1974

In December, 1974, Dick Clark called me. I knew Dick Clark from his Philly days on American Bandstand and the fact that my dad had bought his house in Wallingford, PA., where Jim and I had been married. Jim had also played a couple of shows on American Bandstand.

And (posthumously, he was one of the few that would help me in my lawsuits…But that’s another story!)

This was the very first year of the American Music Awards, and Jim Croce had been selected for the category of “Best Male Vocalist”. I was so proud of Jim. I went to the show and shyly accepted the award.

Then in February of 74’, a friend and colleague of Jim’s, Corb Donahue, head of A&R at ABC Dunhill called me and invited us to join him, his wife, and their 3-year-old daughter on a road trip to Costa Rica. Before Jim died, he had made a plan to take a surfing trip together with our families. Fortunately, Jim’s insurance money had just come in and I decided that taking the journey Jim had planned for us would fulfill his dream.

It was a great escape, and on the way, we enjoyed fresh-caught tuna and barbecued shrimp on homemade tortillas with guacamole, quesadillas, Chile Rellenos, and refried beans. We devoured carne asada tacos and corn polenta with salsas and moles of every kind. A.J. and I caravanned in our International Travelall south from San Diego and ended up in Quepos, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

We fell in love with the small ocean town and A.J. and I stayed there until it was time for A.J. to start school.

For our meals, I was able to gather fresh fruit and vegetables from the trees on the land where we stayed. There was an abundance of crustaceans and fresh fish from the sea at the edge of our property, pork and beef from the farmers across the road, all within a mile around us.

This was the boldest food I’d ever sourced, and the flavors were more vibrant than anything I’d ever tasted. I made lobster and avocado quesadillas with papaya-mint salsa, polenta with blackened tomato sauce, chorizo, and cilantro. We dined on Green Chile Mac and Cheese and mango pie with coconut cookie crust. I’d never enjoyed cooking more than I did when we were in Costa Rica, but I was still years away from realizing my profession as a chef or restaurateur.

When we returned from Costa Rica, I received a check for $5,000, more money than we had ever received from royalties. After all his years of hard work and traveling, Jim had died with just his work shirt on his back and with no bank account.

I was angry that he had not been able to realize his financial success. It would have meant so much to him. http://bit.ly/2lFwaV6

Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffet

After Jim Croce’s first two albums were released, and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” had topped the music charts, Corb Donahue played some of Jim’s music to a young artist named Jimmy Buffet.

Jim and Jimmy met first in L.A., then down in Florida and later, whenever they could.

They had a lot in common and their love of music, good stories and crazy on-the-road lifestyles, bonded them like brothers.
On the Cover of our biography “I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story” Jimmy Buffet wrote “Jim was simply a big influence on me and I won’t forget him”.

Corb Donahue later wrote…“You know in order to make people laugh you have to be really smart. Jim Croce had this special quality of being able to tap into his anger and frustration and say the funniest things when you least expected it.”

You Don’t Mess Around with Jim

Jim’s career was exploding and he was getting a whole lot of recognition, not just in the industry, but in the streets too. Once “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” reached Number One on the charts, he was a real star, and there was hardly anywhere he could go without someone recognizing his face or his name.

As grateful as Jim was for acceptance of his music, he was rather shy about being famous. When we were together, he avoided crowds and conspicuous places, opting for unpopulated beaches or staying at home. But while Jim was renown, his pockets were still empty. The fact is, he hardly had any pockets at all.

By now we had moved to San Diego; and one weekend, we went down to a thrift store in Ocean Beach to outfit him for the road. As we were roaming the aisles of used jeans and jean jackets, the store clerk walked clumsily up to Jim to help him find stuff.

When the clerk got a good look at Jim, his eyes bugged out and he spoke in a slow, stoned drawl. “Hey man, you look just like Jim Croce, man. You could make a lot of money pretendin’ to be him man.” “Do ya think so?” Jim queried, and walked on shyly with a pair of used, faded blue jeans in hand, heading toward the counter.

After paying for the Levi’s with his last dollar, Jim, was about to leave the store when the unsuspecting salesperson stopped Jim again. “Hey man, I mean it. You look just like Jim Croce. He must be some kinda millionaire or something. You should try it, man.”

I’ve Got a Name

The weekend before Jim Croce left on his final tour, my husband and I made a dinner date. We had just moved to California and we were anxious to be together and explore our new hometown.

Unfortunately back then in 1973, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego reminded us of Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” with empty storefronts, sailors, tattoo parlors and ladies of the night.

We searched endlessly to find a good place to eat. And still hungry, we ended up at the historic Keating building with no prospects in sight. Jim joked that night, that we should just open up a restaurant and bar right on the corner of fifth and F. We envisioned it as a place like our home in the country, where we would welcome folks to join us for dinner and wine and play music all night long.

That weekend was the best Jim and I had shared for a long, long time. After a dozen years of dreaming that he could make music his profession, it seemed things were finally going our way. Jim’s songs were on the top of the charts, he was scheduled to host The Johnny Carson Show and excited about doing a movie with Cheech and Chong.

When Jim left that weekend on tour we were both really happy. We couldn’t wait to celebrate Adrian James’ second birthday the following weekend.

Four days later, Thursday evening, September 20, 1973, Jim called, as always, to let me know he was leaving for his next show in Sherman, Texas. With only a couple more concerts to go, he was finally coming home. Jim called me on the phone that night and told me “I love you, Ing”, he didn’t need to say it in a song.
An hour later, the plane that was chartered for Jim’s make-up tour crashed on take-off from Natchitoches Louisiana, killing everyone on board.

Before Jim left on his tour, he had completed his third album with the song “I Got a Name” by Charlie Fox and Norman Gimbel. It was a unique studio performance because unlike others, it was performed without his guitar in hand, which made him a little uncomfortable. Jim’s voice sounded strong but vulnerable. He told me that while he hadn’t written the song, he felt really close to it because his dad had recently passed away and Jim wanted to carry on his name in a good way.

After Jim’s funeral, when I heard Jim sing “I Got a Name” over the radio, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t listen to this song without feeling Jim’s presence and his absence all at the same time.
Fast forward a long 12 years to 1985. I opened a small café and catering business in Hillcrest and had just received notice from my landlord that my “month to month” lease was over. Serendipitously a friend called to say she knew of an “open store front” in the Gaslamp Quarter. When I got downtown I recognized that I was standing on the very same corner where Jim and I had joked about opening a restaurant and live music bar. I knew it was meant to be.

Today, Jim Croce fans send emails to ingrid@croces.com. I love hearing their stories of how Jim’s music has touched their lives profoundly. And I’m so thankful for the musicians who keep playing Jim’s songs and passing them on for new generations. But there have always been questions that folks who wished they had met Jim have asked. They want to know where Jim’s songs came from, who they were written for or about?

This book has given me the opportunity to answer some of these questions. When the folks at Hal Leonard called and wanted to do a new Anthology of Jim Croce’s music, I decided in spite of my trepidation of telling “The Stories behind the Songs”, that I’d take a chance. They were all for it and in the end, Jim’s music speaks louder than any words, so I’ve done my best, and all I can say is, Jim I hope I got it right! http://bit.ly/2jNYyzg

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Eve Selis Performs Bad, Bad Leroy Brown on KUSI


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