After two weeks, I finally finished the autobiography of Jim Croce, entitled I Got a Name – The Jim Croce Story! I’ve been a long-time fan of Jim Croce’s music, and owned all three of his last albums, back in the 70’s. I played them constantly, and still remember most of the words.
I, like so many other fans, was heart-broken when Jim’s life was claimed in a plane crash, en route from one concert venue to another. Jim died at the age of thirty, just as his career was beginning to sky-rocket, leaving behind a wife and two-year-old son, Adrian James, now known as A.J.
While I’ve always loved Jim’s songs, I had no idea of the story behind the man and his music. Fortunately, his widow, Ingrid, along with her current husband, Jimmy Rock, finally decided to share Jim’s story–forty years after his death. (The book was written a long time ago, but never published)
Here are just a few interesting facts I learned about the man and his music:
Jim began his journey with music, at the tender age of five, by learning to play the accordion!
Jim was a college graduate, but preferred to play, write, and sing music, above all else. Jim’s decision to play and sing [for a living] caused a rift between him and his dad. That rift never really healed since Jim’s father passed away before Jim became really successful with his music career.
Jim played and sang folk songs, while he was in college. He met his wife-to-be, Ingrid, during a ‘Hootenanny’. (She performed, while he was a judge.) Jim was in college, and Ingrid was still in high school, at the time. They later married, while Ingrid was studying art, in college. The two began playing and singing together whenever and wherever they could. They wrote several songs together, as well.
In addition to making music, Jim’s various other jobs included: selling radio ads [in the black section of town] , writing radio commercials, working on a construction crew, truck driving, and even teaching some very rowdy special ed students! He wrote several of his songs based on some of these experiences.
Jim wrote virtually all of the songs on his three albums from the 70’s. He was a talented song writer, who used his life experiences to make lyrics for some great songs. He carried a pen and notebook with him at all times. He frequently carried a tape recorder, as well.
Unfortunately, Jim wasn’t able to open up and talk to his wife, when problems would arise between them, and, sometimes, he wrote songs to tell her how he was feeling. (I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song, and Tomorrow’s Gonna’ Be a Brighter Day are two such songs.)
In order to avoid being drafted, Jim joined the Army National Guard two years before he and Ingrid were married. Unfortunately, he wasn’t ordered to actually report for basic training until exactly one week after their wedding!
Jim and Ingrid – still newly weds
(image via Google images)
Jim hated Army basic training! His wife states “Jim didn’t take directions easily”. Ultimately, Jim was forced to repeat basic training for a second time, even though he passed all of the tests the first time. Jim met a man named ‘Leroy Brown’ while he was in basic training, who helped inspire the song Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.
Jim, also, received inspiration for the song “Operator”, during basic training, while waiting in line [with the other recruits] to use the pay phone. He once struck up a conversation with the operator, while making a call, [to buy some time] because Ingrid’s line was busy and he didn’t want to give up his turn in the phone line.
Jim drove a VW Beetle, for years, that he and Ingrid eventually referred to as, “The Raisin”. The car became filled with dents at the hands of some of Jim’s special ed students, and Jim spray painted the car brown to help hide the dents. This made it look like a raisin! (During this time, Jim’s tires were also slashed five times!) Following the eventual demise of ‘The Raisin’, money was tight, and Jim proceeded to purchase thirteen different ‘clunkers’ within the next twelve months! His streak of bad luck with cars, was the inspiration for a song–‘Hard Time Losin’ Man’.
One day, Jim’s friend, and former college classmate, who had become a record producer, in New York, contacted Jim and offered a record deal. (Jim and Ingrid had been playing and singing at coffee houses, colleges, and such.) Jim and Ingrid then moved to New York to pursue a music career, which didn’t flourish, at that time. The song, ‘New York’s Not My Home’ was inspired by this experience.
Jim was a trusting soul, and refused to read the recording contract, or even get a copy of it when he signed it. Ingrid questioned this decision, but eventually signed the document, too. Both of these decisions came back to haunt them. As a result, Jim received very little monetary compensation for his music, even after his music career finally began to take off with the release of ‘Don’t Mess Around With Jim’.
Ingrid went to court, following Jim’s death, and, finally, after ten long years of litigation, won the rights to Jim’s music (some of which she co-wrote).
Last picture of Jim Croce (and guitarist, Maury Muelhleisen) – taken 15 minutes before their plane took off and crashed
(image via Google images)
If you are a fan of Jim Croce’s, you would enjoy his autobiography.
Once I finished the book, I was still curious, so I did a little Google research.
I discovered that, following Jim’s death, his wife, Ingrid, became very accomplished in many ways. Among many other things, Ingrid developed a Head Start program for Costa Rica, opened a children’s school, and wrote a children’s book! Ingrid, also, renewed her singing career, and recorded a couple of albums after Jim was killed. Eventually she was forced to give up singing, due to a tumor on her vocal cords.
Ingrid then opened a very successful restaurant/jazz bar in San Diego, California, in 1985. She located her restaurant in the same spot where she and Jim had once discussed opening a “Croce’s restaurant/jazz bar” together. She named the restaurant Croce’s, in memory of her late husband. The business was expanded five times, in the years that followed!
Ingrid decorated Croce’s with memorabilia from Jim’s career, which was a good thing, because her house burned down about the time she was preparing to open Croce’s! Over the years, Croce’s became a favorite spot for Jim’s fans to come and remember him. Unfortunately, Croce’s was forced to close its doors, in December of 2013, after the landlord refused to renew the lease. Ingrid has since opened a second restaurant, Croce’s Park West.
(photo via Google images)
I, also, discovered that, after the death of his father, A.J., contracted a brain tumor when he was about four years old. The tumor caused swelling to the optic nerve, which left A.J. blind, for a time. Fortunately, by age 10, A.J. was able to regain sight in one of his eyes, but A.J. became an accomplished pianist while he was still blind. A.J. sings and plays the guitar, as well. A.J. has recorded several albums, and now owns his own record company, too. By the way, I think A.J. resembles his late father a lot!