September 20, 1973 – Jim Croce was born on January 10, 1943 in South Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He had two Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers at number 1: “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” He died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 20, 1973 an hour after he delivered a concert at Northwestern State University on route to a concert at Austin College Texas.
Jim Croce was a fabulous songwriter, who was not enthralled with the road. He wrote his wife from his last tour ‘Life and Times’, that he had decided to take a break from music and touring and settle down with his wife and infant son after the tour was completed.
His intention had been to quit music and stick to writing short stories and movie scripts as a career, and withdraw from public life.
“Time in a Bottle”, originally released on Croce’s first album the year before, hit number one on December 29, 1973, the third posthumous chart-topping song of the rock era following Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and Janis Joplin’s recording of “Me and Bobby McGee”. It was dedicated to his unborn son A.J.
Bad Bad Leroy Brown is still a chart topper with numerous bands across the world and a huge legacy for the man who was a very reluctant music star.
Remembering singer-songwriter JIM CROCE (Jan. 10, 1943-Sept. 20, 1973) on the 50th anniversary of his death. He was one of the most popular singersongwriters in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and released five studio albums and 11 singles, including “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time in a Bottle” that both reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
At the age of five, he learned to play his first song, “Lady of Spain,” on the accordion. In 1965, Jim graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University where he was a member of the Villanova Singers and the college’s vocal group, The Coventry Lads. He was also a student disc jockey at campus radio station WKVU-FM.
In 1970, Croce was introduced to a classically trained pianist and guitarist, singer/songwriter Maury Muehleisen, from Trenton, New Jersey. Initially, Jim backed Maury on guitar at their gigs but their roles reversed in time, with Muehleisen now playing lead guitar to Croce’s singing.
Jim signed a three project deal in the early ‘70s with ABC Records, and released the albums “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” and “Life and Times.” The singles “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)” and “Time in a Bottle” — written for A.J., his then-unborn son — all received extensive radio airplay. Jim’s biggest single, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” reached No. 1 in July 1973 on the Billboard charts.
When his career started to pick up, Croce began touring the country with Muehleisen, performing live in various venues including in large coffee houses, on college campuses and at folk festivals. However, Jim’s finances were in trouble — the record company had fronted him the money to record his first album — but much of the record sales he had earned went to pay back the advance.
So in early 1973, Croce and Muehleisen traveled to Europe to promote the album — and make some needed money — playing to positive reviews in London, Paris and Amsterdam. After returning to the States, Jim began a string of television appearances that included his national TV debut on “American Bandstand,” “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Dick Cavett Show,” NBC’s newly launched late-night music show “The Midnight Special” (which Jim co-hosted), and “The Helen Reddy Show.”
In late summer, Croce and Muehleisen visited London again and performed on one of the U.K.’s top music programs, “The Old Grey Whistle Test.” But in the midst of all of this new found success, Jim was beginning to burn out. Extensive touring had earned him rave reviews throughout the U.S. and Europe, but it had also prevented him from spending time with his wife and their two-year-old son.
At the same time while traveling on his “Life and Times Tour,” on open dates Croce would also work on his next album, I Got a Name, which was scheduled to be released by the end of the year. The South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native had wrapped up recording sessions and was nearing the end of his tour when tragedy struck on September 20, 1973.
After performing at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Jim boarded a small chartered plane to travel to his next show in Sherman, Texas. Sadly, on takeoff the aircraft only traveled a few yards past the end of the runway. In what was later described by officials as solely pilot error, Croce’s Beechcraft failed to clear a pecan tree while attempting to ascend, and crashed. All six people aboard were killed, including Jim, Maury, comedian George Stevens (the show’s opening act), Kenneth Cortose (Jim’s manager and booking agent), Dennis Rast (the road manager), and pilot Robert Elliott.
Following JIm Croce’s death at the age of 30, public interest in his music exploded. The single “I Got a Name” was released as planned on September 21st — the day after Jim had died — and became a top 10 hit. “Time in a Bottle” was re-released after being used in a TV movie, and by the end of 1973 had topped the charts (along with its album, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, that also shot to No. 1). It became only the third posthumous No. 1 single in the rock era, following Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”
A week after Jim’s death, Ingrid Croce received a letter from her husband that he had mailed to her while on tour. In it, Jim sounded weary from his time on the road and expressed a desire to quit the music business and take up other pursuits, possibly to write movie scripts. He said he hoped that type of work wouldn’t take him so far away from his wife and son. In closing he wrote, “Remember, it’s the first 60 years that count and I’ve got 30 to go. I love you.”