The official Jim Croce Fan Page! The official website is www.jimcroce.com
"I'm no missionary," says Jim Croce about his songs, "and I can't wear any armor, either. I just gotta be the way I am."
Jim's musical career started when he was five years old, learning to play "Lady of Spain" on the accordion. He says, "I was the original underachiever. I'd shake that thing and smile, but I was sort of a late bloomer." He didn't really take music too seriously until 1964, while he was attending Villanova College in Pennsylvania. There he formed various bands, doing fraternity parties and playing "anything that the people wanted to hear: blues, rock, acapella, railroad music...anything." One of those bands was chosen for a foreign exchange tour of Africa and the Middle East. "We had a good time," Jim recalls. "We just ate what the people ate, lived in the woods, and played our songs. Of course they didn't speak English over there... but if you mean what you're singing, people understand."
He returned to Philadelphia and he had decided to be "serious." But it was hard to make a living playing in a band, and his previous employment experiences had lost their appeal: "I'd worked construction crews, and I'd been a welder while I was in college. But I'd rather do other things than get burned." Like most underachieving accordion players, he had a hard time finding the right other things. His determination to be serious ("I even got a pair of shoes that look like the Ace of Spades, with holes in them") led to a job at a Philadelphia R&B radio station, where he translated commercials into Soul. "I'd sell airtime to Bronco's Poolroom, and then write the spot: 'You wanna be cool, and you wanna shoot pool...(dig it).'" Increasingly frustrated, he quit to teach guitar at a summer camp ("to people who had to wear loafers 'cause they couldn't tie their shoes'") and even enlisted in the U.S. Army. He didn't have a very illustrious military career, but says he's prepared if there's ever a war where we have to defend ourselves with mops.
Back to the radio station again, briefly ("that was about the end of my seriousness"), and then he tried teaching "special education" to discipline problem students in a Philadelphia high school. Finally he decided to give his music a chance.
He'd been playing some pretty tough bars ("I can still get my guitar off faster than anyone else"), then he and his wife, Ingrid, moved to New York and began working coffeehouses. Tommy West, who had attended Villanova College with Jim, introduced them to Terry Cashman, and in 1969, Cashman and West produced their album, Jim and Ingrid. They remained on the coffeehouse circuit for a year and a half, involving themselves in the music business and collecting guitars. But, they soon became discouraged by the agitation and pressures of city life, and moved to Lyndell, Pennsylvania, where they had their son, Adrian James. Ingrid learned to bake bread and to can fruits and vegetables and Jim, like a rich lady selling her jewels, sold the guitars he had accumulated, one by one. When the guitars ran out, he worked construction again and did some studio work in New York. "Mostly background 'oohs' and 'ahhs' for commercials. I kept thinking, 'maybe tomorrow I'll sing some words.'"
His first album, You Don't Mess Around With Jim, was an instant success. Jim immediately became a top bill club and concert performer and the title song and "Operator" pulled from the album, were both highly successful singles. The friendliness and sincerity of Jim's performances have endeared him to a wide variety of audiences.
"Well," laughed Jim, "I'm glad I'm not running anymore jackhammers. It's a lot easier to have a good time. I think music should make people sit back and want to touch each other...I just hope people get a kick out of it."
Since the first album, things have been strictly uphill for Jim. "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," which was pulled from the second LP entitled Life and Times reached the top of the national pop charts before it went Gold. Jim's latest album is called I've Got a Name and the title cut is part of the soundtrack for 20th Century Fox's new film The Last American Hero. Many other things are being planned for the unlikely hero of Philly, including appearances in films as well as more soundtrack offers.
Jim Croce - "I've Got a Name." He certainly has.
(Writer unknown, ©1973 ABC Records, Inc.)
Jim Croce's Birthday is tomorrow. He would have been 74. Jim once said, "It's all a matter of attitude. I've put a lot of miles on my truck checkin' out attitudes, and it looks to me like the best one is to be easy, take what comes, and have a good time."
“Gunga Din” written in 1966 at Jim’s home in Drexel Hill
In 1966, when Jim Croce and I performed regularly at folk clubs, colleges and local bars, Jim had a great ear for dialects and languages. He often told stories to introduce his songs using either an English cockney, Southern drawl, Scottish brogue or Eastern Indian dialect.
He would practice new songs daily, never repeating a single-one, unless requested and with a repertoire of over two thousand songs from blues to folk, Rock & Roll to Elizabethan bawdy ballads, Jim was building confidence to write his own songs.
As an avid reader of poetry, Haiku, Leonard Cohen and the classics, he was educating himself, always in love with a good story.
When he put music to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Gunga Din”, he was encouraged to keep writing, especially when he played the song for a bunch of rowdy and inebriated sheep herders from Australia at our favorite local bar, The Riddle Paddock”. They gave him a standing ovation and even evoked a tear or two from the drunk, downtrodden and lonely.
In 1966, on his first self-made album “Facets”, Jim published his first song including “Gunga Din” and “Sun Come Up”, co-written with his brother Rich, and “Texas Rodeo”.
How I met Jim Croce…
It was a snowy night two days before Christmas in 1963 and I was auditioning with “The Rum Runners,” to be a contestant in an upcoming hootenany at WDDS radio station in Philadelphia. Close to the station’s parking lot, our old clunker had gotten stuck in the snow and for fear of being late, I had jumped out to push our car while my band members, six husky military cadets, sat inside the sedan, teasing and chiding me on.
After the automobile was liberated, I looked up and saw this handsome, curly haired guy staring at me from inside his V.W. Beetle. At sixteen, I wanted so much to impress him by looking older and cooler than I was. But instead I waved at him impulsively like a little kid wearing my mittens. He smiled back sweetly, waved and drove on.
Once inside the studio, as I stood before the microphone, tuning my guitar, I had a funny feeling that someone was watching me. I looked up through the smokey glass into the control booth and there he was again. That cute guy from the parking lot was the judge for the audition!
He introduced himself as Jim Croce, a college student at Villanova University who was in a group called the “Coventry Lads.” He and his friend Tommy Picardo were there that night to judge our audition.
I noticed Jim staring at me with the biggest, saddest brown eyes I’d ever seen. He looked shy and sensitive, yet at the same time, he was impish. I felt like he was undressing me with every glance.
Self-consciously I began to sing. Then, trying to impress my perceived critic, I decided to improvise. Without apprising my band of my new introduction, I performed an unexpected opening to our pre-rehearsed folk song. In a husky, sexy voice, I mimicked the words acappella, to Marilyn Monroe’s tune from the movie “Some Like It Hot.”
“You’ve heard of instant coffee, You’ve heard of instant tea, Well you just cast you’re little ol’ eyes on little ol’ instant me.”
I went with it completely, body language, gestures and all and when I finished, my band, though staring at me, dumbfounded, picked up their instruments and joined me promptly, in our unrelated folk song, “The Midnight Special.”
Next we played “The Cruel War” and completed our audition with Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flower’s Gone?” When we finished, “my” audience smiled at me sheepishly and Jim Croce came into the studio, clumsily tripping over the microphone chord to reach me. “I like your voice,” he managed. “Maybe we could sing together sometime.”
That night I passed the audition and made the first cut. I also fell madly in love with Jim Croce. http://bit.ly/2geylZY
Thyme in a Bottle – a cookbook biography!
Hi, I’m Ingrid Croce and Thyme in a Bottle is my life story in a cookbook. It is filled with the recipes, friends, and opportunities I experienced for building a family and a home that magically found itself taking the form of a restaurant.
In Thyme in a Bottle, I go back and try to figure out how that all happened. I start at the ethnic epicenter of south Philadelphia where I grew up with people who were as passionate about Sinatra and linguine as they were about politics and religion. This “hotbed” of humanity is where my love for food, family, and hard work began, sixteen years before I met and married Jim Croce.
From the moment Jim and I fell in love, good food and music graced every facet and nearly every moment of our lives. Through the folk movement of the sixties, we promoted our Capitol album Jim and Ingrid Croce, often playing for our suppers in small clubs and eating our way across the country from college concerts and collard greens to Maine lobster at The Ship’s Fare.
When our music failed to get acclaim, we moved to the country, where Jim drove a ten-wheeler and I planted zucchini and thyme. In between writing “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Operator,” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” there were blueberry blintzes, homemade gnocchi, and squash-blossom frittatas to be enjoyed. And then the greatest gift of all, our son Adrian James, came to us, just two short years before Jim Croce topped the music charts and his plane crashed in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
When Jim died in 1973, his music played on and his words “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do” rang even truer than before.
While I was busy raising our son and protecting Jim’s and my music rights in court, I kept trying to clarify and redefine my personal vision for family and a home. With no road maps to guide me, I followed many circuitous routes. I sang my own songs, opened a school, and even sat on the board of the Woman’s Bank.
Then using my heart and my stomach, I surfed south to Costa Rica with Adrian James, to polenta con natilla and mango pie. From blinchiki and Stroganoff in Leningrad, to pizza and spaghetti alla Bolognese, street vendors and five-star chefs blessed our palates.
After A.J. took his rites of passage at the Wailing Wall, I did my darnedest to run off the hummus and falafel at the Stockholm Marathon. I was still blindly following my dream.
In 1985, unable to sing after a failed vocal chord operation, I was looking for a good job with good people and a worthwhile, fun place to work. The result was Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar, which I opened as a tribute to Jim Croce and his music, and as a stage for our son to practice and play his songs.
Little did I know back then that my hard work in building our restaurant and bars would lead me to my wonderful husband, Jim Rock. Or that my work as a restaurateur would finally impart to me a powerful opportunity to do all the things I love to do best: serve, eat, and toast to good times and life’s blessings.
In the end, Croce’s is my prize. My business passionately stokes my entrepreneurial spirit and at the same time embodies my vision for my family and community in a wonderfully ordinary way. While it’s hard work, there’s a lot of love here at Croce’s and no limit to the good people, food, and entertainment we are able to bring to our everyday lives.
In my autobiographical cookbook my life stories, garnered over nearly five decades, are punctuated by meals that nourished and encouraged me along the way. My recipes are a collaboration of kind friends, generous chefs, and family traditions that have been enjoyed at Croce’s and served in our home.
Thyme in a Bottle tells how my dream came true. It brings us to the hearth of Croce’s where in addition to feeding the tummy, we enhance the spirit and offer times that are not “saved in a bottle” but enjoyed in the moment with family and friends. Click here to buy my cook book at the Croce’s Store! http://bit.ly/2eyXPEM