Folk era superstar had 3 hit LPs in two years
"I Got a Name" was released the day after his death in plane crash
Jim Croce was born in South Philadelphia, January 10, 1943, and a life-long fascination with music began shortly thereafter. At the age of six, he was singing and playing "Lady of Spain" on the accordion at church socials and family gatherings.
From his father's record collection, Jim picked up on music ranging from that of Fats Waller and Bessie Smith to Dixieland. At age 15, he convinced his father that he needed a guitar to help him make his own music and in a pawnshop along Philadelphia's skid row, his younger brother's neglected clarinet was traded for a used Harmony "F-slot" acoustic guitar.
During the folk movement of the early '60s, Jim became captivated with sea chanteys, English and Irish ballads and the music of Woody Guthrie and Jimmie Rodgers. By the time he graduated from Villanova University in 1965, with a degree in psychology, his photographic memory had helped him have as many as 2500 songs at his fingertips.
Jim and Ingrid Jacobson, a girl he had first met during his collegiate years, were married in 1966 and for a time earned their living as a performing duo. They traveled extensively throughout the East and South playing colleges, bars and coffee houses. In 1969 they recorded an album, "Jim and Ingrid Croce," for Capitol Records, but when the record failed to become a big seller, they gave up touring and moved to rural Lyndell, Pennsylvania.
Jim drove trucks, swung a hammer and played music in local bars during the evening hours. Ingrid baked bread, canned vegetables and made pottery, and in 1970 became pregnant with their first child, Adrian James. Faced with an imminent additional mouth to feed, Jim turned his sights once again to music, and sitting at his kitchen table, he wrote in just 10 days "Time in a Bottle," "You Don't Mess Around with Jim," "New York's Not My Home," "Photographs and Memories" and "Operator."
He put the songs on a cassette and sent them along to his producers in New York, who recognized the excellence of the songs. Jim's commercial success had been born. His first solo album was released in 1972 and included the guitar playing of his accompanist and close friend, Maury Muehleisen. This album contained the two single hits, "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" and "Operator. "
The album's success led to an extensive touring schedule followed soon by the recording of a second album, Life and Times, which was released in 1973, and included another number one single smash, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."
It was to be one of only three albums in an unhappily short but singularly productive career. On September 20, 1973, Jim was killed in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana, during a tour of southern colleges. He was 30 years old. Two weeks later, his third and final album, I Got a Name, was released, containing in addition to the title song, "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song," "Working at the Carwash Blues" and "Lover's Cross."
Drawing from his personal experience and unique observations of life, Jim Croce left behind a rich legacy of music. His songs celebrate the life of the common man; songs that are as relevant today as the day he wrote them.