Monday, October 20, 2014

Jim Croce, The #81 Artist of the Seventies*

Jim Croce became interested in music at an early age, and learned to play his first song on accordion at age five.  He graduated from Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania in 1960.  Jim attended Malvern Preparatory School, then enrolled at Villanova University.

Croce graduated from Villanova with a Bachelor's degree in psychology in 1965.  He was a student disc jockey at WKVY and was a member of the Villanova Singers and the Villanova Spires.  Croce began to form bands that played at fraternity parties and Philadelphia coffeehouses.  Croce's band was selected for a foreign exchange tour of Africa, the Middle East, and Yogoslavia.

Croce recorded his first album Facets in 1966.  Croce scored his first permanent work at The Riddle Paddock in Lima, Pennsylvania.  In 1968, Jim and his wife Ingrid moved to New York City and recorded an album (Jim & Ingrid Croce) with Capitol Records.  The two toured the college concert circuit promoting the album, but they became disillusioned with the business and bought an old farm in the Pennsylvania countryside.          

Croce obtained a job driving trucks, but continued to write songs, often about the characters that he would meet at bars and truck stops.  The couple then returned to Philadelphia, and Jim got a job at Philadelphia radio station WHAT.  Producer Joe Salviuolo, a friend of Croce's at Villanova, introduced Jim to singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist Maury Muehleisen.  At first, Croce backed Muehleisen on guitar, but soon, the roles were reversed, with Muehleisen adding lead guitar to Croce's songs.

In 1972, Croce signed a recording contract with ABC Records.  He released the album You Don't Mess Around with Jim, and the title song caught on, reaching #8.

The follow-up, "Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)" only reached #17, one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era* that helped the album go Gold.

Croce then released the album Life and Times.  The lead single "One Less Set Of Footsteps" was another underrated song, only getting as high as #37.

Jim had done well to this point, but his next single would make him a superstar.  "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" raced to #1 and is still one of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* over 40 years later.  Both the single and the album Life and Times went Gold. 

The Croces moved to San Diego, California, and Croce and Muehleisen began playing large coffeehouses, college concert houses, and folk festivals.  Croce went on a European tour to promote the album and received great reviews.  Jim also appeared on The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert

Croce then recorded the album I Got a Name, and immediately set out on tour.  But Croce didn't like the road, and he had decided to take a break and settle down with his wife and infant son after his tour finished.  In a letter to his wife, which arrived after his death, Croce had said he wanted to quit music and just write short stories and movie scripts.

On September 20, 1973, the day before the single "I Got A Name" was to be released, Croce performed at Northwestern State University.  Less than an hour later, Croce boarded a chartered light plane en route to a concert at Austin College in Texas.  The plane crashed while taking off from the Natchitoches, Louisiana Airport.  Croce, Muehleisen, and four others were killed.

The plane clipped a pecan tree at the end of the runway, the only tree within hundreds of miles.  The plane did not gain the necessary altitude to clear the tree and did not maneuver to avoid it.  The pilot suffered from severe coronary artery disease, and had run three miles to the airport to fly the plane.  Hehad 14,290 hours of flight time and over 2,000 hours flying the Beech 18 plane.
Although Croce hadn't appreciated touring, fans loved him, and he was a promising performer when he died.  His song "I Got A Name"  became his third Top 10 song posthumously, and his earlier material picked up steam as well. 

ABC released another single from the album, "Time In A Bottle", which became another smash #1 song.  It too sold over one million copies, and helped Croce's final studio album go Gold.

In 1974, another Croce song landed in the Top 10 as "I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song" hit #9.

Croce posted 10 career hits, with nine of those within a two-year period.  He had five Top 10 songs and the two #1 hits.   

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.