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Jim Croce: Musical Legend

Readmikenow is a freelance writer who enjoys researching music, movies, history, and more.

Jim Croce performing

Jim Croce performing

Jim Croce was a well-known American rock and folk singer-songwriter. He released numerous singles as well as five studio albums between 1966 and 1973, and his music was regularly included in the music charts during the 1970s.

Sadly, he died in September 1973 in a plane crash. At that time, he had reached the height of his popularity. Croce's wife Ingrid continued to write and record songs after his death. In the 1990s, Croce's son, A.J. Croce, became a singer-songwriter.

Early Life

James Joseph Croce was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 10, 1943, to an Italian family from Sicily. His mother was Flora Mary (Babusci) Croce and his father was Albert Croce.

Croce attended Upper Darby High School and graduated in 1960. He went to Malvern Preparatory School after graduation, but after a year he went to Villanova University. He majored in psychology and minored in German.

When he was a college student, he was a member of a musical group known as the Villanova Spires or Villanova Singers. The group performed off-campus and made recordings under the name of The Coventry Lads. During college, Croce worked at WKVU radio station as a student disc jockey. He graduated in 1965 from Villanova with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Music Career

Croce became serious about his music when he was in college at Villanova. He enjoyed being part of bands that played at universities around Philadelphia, fraternity parties, coffee houses, and more.

He enjoyed being able to play anything people in the audience want to hear, including railroad music, rock, blues, and a capella. It was during this time when Croce's band was chosen to go on a foreign exchange tour in Africa, Yugoslavia, and the Middle East. He enjoyed eating what the locals ate as well as living in the woods at times and playing songs. Most of his audiences didn't speak English. Croce felt if they meant the songs they were playing, the people understood on some level what they were saying.

Jim Croce and his wife, Ingrid

Jim Croce and his wife, Ingrid


While judging a contest at a hootenanny taking place at the Philadelphia Convention Hall, Croce met Ingrid Jacobson, who would become his wife. The two married in 1966. Because Ingrid was Jewish, he converted to Judaism, and the couple was married in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony.

Jim Croce with wife in Army uniform

Jim Croce with wife in Army uniform

National Guard

In 1966, Croce enlisted into the Army National Guard. He did this to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam.

He left for his military service a week after getting back from his honeymoon, and he was on active duty for four months. He admitted he had problems with authority— which probably explains why he had to go through basic training twice.

Singing Duo

Croce and his wife performed as a singing duo starting in the mid-1960s until the early 1970s. Initially, they performed songs by artists like Arlo Guthrie, Ian & Sylvia, Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, and others. Eventually, the couple began writing their own music.

During this time, Croce got a long-term gig at a steakhouse called The Riddle Paddock in Lima, Pennsylvania. There, he was able to play music in various genres including folk, blues, rock and roll, and country.

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Jim Croce and wife singing

Jim Croce and wife singing

New York City

A record producer convinced Jim and Ingrid to move to New York City. They recorded their first album with Capitol Records while living in the Bronx. The couple drove over 300,000 miles to play concerts at colleges and small clubs. They were on the concert circuit to promote their album called Jim & Ingrid Croce.

After a period of time, the couple became overwhelmed by the New York City music business. Eventually, they sold all but one of their guitars to pay rent, and then they moved back to a rural part of Pennsylvania.

They started playing for $25 a night. It wasn't enough to pay the bills and the couple took on odd jobs like teaching guitar, driving trucks, doing construction, and more. They both continued to write songs during this time.

Getting Serious About Music

After the couple returned to Philadelphia, Croce decided to get serious about being a productive member of society. He got a job at an R&B AM radio station WHAT in Philadelphia. He sold airtime and wrote advertisement copy and did what he described as translating commercials into soul.

In 1970, Croce met singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen, a classically trained pianist-guitarist. They formed a group and initially, Croce would back Muehleisen on guitar. Eventually, their roles reversed. Muehleisen would take Croce's music and provide lead guitar.

Jim Croce album

Jim Croce album

More Determined About Music

Croce discovered his wife was pregnant and became even more determined to be a professional musician. In September 1971 their son Adrian James (A.J.) was born.

Croce went on the road to promote his music and Ingrid became a stay-at-home mother. Croce sent a cassette of new songs to a New York City music producer. In 1972, he signed a contract to do three albums with ABC Records and quickly released the first two albums. They were Life and Times and You Don't Mess Around with Jim. Two of his songs from these albums got quite a bit of airplay. They were "Time in a Bottle" and "Operator."

Jim Croce performing at concert

Jim Croce performing at concert

San Diego

Croce and his family moved to San Diego, California, in 1972. He made several television appearances on such shows as American Bandstand, The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show, and others.

During this time, he also performed in over 250 concerts. The album Life and Times featured the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." As a single, this song quickly became number one on the American music charts. The album went on to become gold.

Jim Croce with family

Jim Croce with family


Croce and Muehleisen had finished playing a concert at Pather Coliseum at Northwestern State University, and they were taking a chartered flight to Sherman, Texas, where they were scheduled to perform at a concert at Austin College.

As they took off, the plane didn't gain sufficient altitude—and it crashed into a pecan tree located at the end of the runway. The charter pilot was 57 years old and had had a heart attack. On September 20, 1973, Croce, Muhleisen, and four others died in the plane crash. Croce was buried in Frazer, Pennsylvania, at Haymn Salomon Cemetery.

Jim Croce grave marker

Jim Croce grave marker

Posthumous Success

Croce's third album was released after his death, and it reached number two on the American music charts. It contained some of his most famous songs including "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song," "I Got a Name," and "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues.” Two of these songs, "I Got a Name" and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song," reached the top 10 in the American music charts.


Readmikenow (author) on January 13, 2020:

Myron, thanks for reading the article and sharing this great story!

Myron Myers on January 13, 2020:

My father liked Jim Croce , James Taylor, Johnny Cash so I kind of grew up listening to all that type of music and of course Bob Dylan but as I got older I branched off into rock music mainly but I still have Jim Croces greatest hits that every now and then I still listen to because his songs had meaning behind them and that's why they are still good today. I'm from Philadelphia PA and I didn't know he was from Philadelphia until I worked at upper Darby high school back in the 1990's as a Union Plumber and we were pretty much in every area of that school and I somehow got into the trophy room and other famous people who went to that school and wouldn't you know it there's a plaque on the wall remembering Jim Croce as a graduate of Upper Darby High School and not to far from Jim Croce is another plaque honoring Todd Rungren who apparently is a graduate of Upper Darby High School also. What a wonderful world we live in !

Readmikenow (author) on October 31, 2019:

Pamela, thanks. I agree that he died too young.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 31, 2019:

I remember Corco and it is sad he died so young. This was an interesting account of his and his wife's lives.

Readmikenow (author) on October 31, 2019:

Paula, thanks. I have always been a big Jim Croce fan. I believe his songs are timeless.

Suzie from Carson City on October 30, 2019:

Mike....Wonderful piece on a great musician I remember well. Love all his music....know every word to every song. Jim Croce, another amazing performer, gone much too soon. Hearing his songs is a bittersweet experience. Thank you for this moment down Memory Lane. Peace. Paula

Readmikenow (author) on October 30, 2019:

Elnavann, thanks. I agree with you. He died way too young. Such a gifted singer/songwriter.

elnavann from South Africa on October 30, 2019:

Jim Croce has always been one of my favourite singer song writers (Have to say I love you in a song, These Dreams, bring back so many memories). It is sad that he died so young, he might have written many more beautiful songs.

Readmikenow (author) on October 30, 2019:

AB thanks. Jim Croce remains one of my all time favorite musicians.

A B Williams from Central Florida, USA on October 30, 2019:

My favorite is 'Operator' followed by 'Time in a bottle' (haunting melody)

I've managed to hang on to a few of my albums, a Jim Croce album is among them.

My Dad would go around the house singing 'Bad Bad Leroy Brown' so he ruined that one for me. ;)

Another good one Mike.

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