Mar 30, 2022: Jim Croce Receives Historical Marker in Pennsylvania

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Two and a half years after it was first announced, the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce was honored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with a historical marker. The plaque, installed on March 30, 2022, formally marks the barn in Lyndell, Pa., where he wrote his songs, including the hits “Operator,” “Time in a Bottle,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Photographs and Memories” and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.”

The commemorative marker was initially announced in October 2019. It describes the musician as “best known for upbeat urban ballads and songs about the common man.”

Croce graduated from nearby Upper Darby High School. The marker is located on Creek Road at Highspire Road.

According to an article that first appeared in 2019 in Montco.Today, serving Montgomery Country, Pa., “A blue historical marker will be placed near a farmhouse overlooking the Brandywine River, where Croce lived with his wife, Ingrid, from 1970 to 1972. During that time, the pair enjoyed a period of creativity and entertaining with famous guests like James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie.”

Croce, who died in a plane crash on Sept. 20, 1973, in Louisiana, at age 30, had spent a number of years pursuing his craft, first during his time at Villanova University (where he was friends with a fellow student, Don McLean). It was then that he learned a valuable skill that informed the records he later made: being able to perform “anything that the people wanted to hear,” while playing the fraternity party circuit, he later explained.

Jim Croce’s I Got a Name

He also spent time playing as a duo with Ingrid. During those years he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs and met the kinds of characters he would later write about in such songs as “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” and “Top Hat Bar and Grille.”

His break came when he began working with a college friend, Tommy West, who had formed a production team with Terry Cashman, and was subsequently signed to a deal with ABC Records. Croce’s 1972 album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim reached #1 on Billboard’s album chart and the title song reached #8 on the Billboard singles chart. Next up from the album was “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels).” In 1973, a first single released prior to a follow-up album achieved only modest success. But on March 20, ABC Records issued “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” The song enjoyed a steady ascent up the charts and on July 21 it hit #1. Both songs were included on his July album, Life and Times.

Just two months later, on Sept. 20, Croce died while on tour. Also killed were his manager, road manager, musical collaborator Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens (who was Croce’s opening act) and the pilot.

Related: Radio hits of July 1973

The next day, his label released “I Got a Name,” the theme song to a movie, The Last American Hero, about NASCAR driver Junior Johnson. (The I Got a Name album arrived on Dec. 1.) The song rose to #10 in Billboard.

Its success was likely impeded by the release of another single, “Time in a Bottle,” in November. In just eight weeks, on Jan. 5, 1974, the song became a posthumous #1 hit. Two weeks later, Croce albums were #1 and #2 on the sales charts, ahead of new releases by superstars the Carpenters, Elton John, Paul McCartney and others.

In just over one year as a national presence, Croce became a beloved artist whose songs of colorful characters still play and resonate with fans. At 30, he was just coming into his own as the singer-songwriter movement developed.

Croce’s recordings are available here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

3 Comments so far

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  1. Mickster
    #1 Mickster 19 October, 2019, 13:42

    I grew up listening to many of the great songs of Jim Croce in the 70’s and 80’s and still enjoy them today. It’s a shame that this extraordinary songwriter was taken far too soon, and the music world robbed of the great songs he would have written and recorded.

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  2. Shannon
    #2 Shannon 30 April, 2022, 16:46

    I can’t believe Maury wasn’t included. He was a huge part of those songs as much as Jim was.

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  3. Spike McGee
    #3 Spike McGee 2 April, 2023, 17:39

    This man had written and recorded a wealth of great songs. One can only imagine how many more he had in him. I remember the news of his horrible death and how saddened many of us were. His songs bring back some of the greatest memories of my life.

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