Jim Croce: Musical Legend
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. Croce's music was regularly included in the music charts during the 1970s. He died in September 1973 in a plane crash. At this 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.
James Joseph Croce was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 10, 1943. They were an Italian family from Sicily. His mother's name was Flora Mary (Babusci) Croce and his father was named Albert Croce. Jim 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, Croce was a member of a musical group known as the Villanova Spires or Villanova Singers. The group would perform off-campus and make recordings. When this happened, they went by the name of The Coventry Lads. During college, Croce worked at WKVU radio station as a student disc jockey. Croce graduated in 1965 from Villanova University with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
When Croce started attending the University of Villanova, he began to be serious about his music. He enjoyed being part of bands that played at universities around Philadelphia, at fraternity parties as well as coffee houses and more. Croce enjoyed being able to play anything people in the audience want to hear. This included railroad music, rock, blues, a Capella and anything else they wanted. 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.
While judging a contest at a hootenanny taking place at the Philadelphia Convention Hall, Croce met Ingrid Jacobson. She would be his future wife. Ingrid and Jim Croce were married in 1966. He converted to Judaism as Ingrid was Jewish. The couple was married in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony.
In 1966, Jim Croce enlisted into the Army National Guard. He did this to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Croce was on active duty in the army for four months. He left for his military service a week after getting back from his honeymoon. Croce admitted he had problems with authority. This is probably why he was forced to go through basic training twice.
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 in Lima, Pennsylvania. It was called The Riddle Paddock. Croce was able to play music in various genres including folk, blues, rock and roll as well as country.
A record producer convinced Jim and Ingrid Croce 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, the couple sold all but one of their guitars to pay rent. They then 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, Jim 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 who was 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.
More Determined About Music
Jim 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. Jim 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, Croce signed a contract to do three albums with ABC Records. He 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.
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 as well as The Tonight Show and others. During this time, Croce 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.
Croce and Muehleisen had finished playing a concert at Pather Coliseum at Northwestern State University. They were taking a chartered flight to Sherman, Texas. The two were scheduled to perform at a concert at Austin College. As it took off, the plane didn't gain sufficient altitude. It crashed into a pecan tree located at the end of the runway. The charter pilot was 57 years old and 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.
Croce's third album was released after his death. The album was 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 each reached the top ten in the American music charts.