Jim loved playing guitar, writing songs, and singing, but he had no idea how to break into the recording business. While attending college at Villanova University for a degree in psychology and a minor in German, he and some other students played different venues around town to get some pocket change. Jim was the university’s disc jockey. He also did various part-time jobs, so he’d have some spending money. Performing became addictive to Croce so he pursued becoming a professional musician once he graduated.
He signed a record deal, but it wasn’t a good one as he was taken advantage of by the record company and his agent. His first two albums weren’t marketed well and they flopped. His first album only sold around 500 copies. There wasn’t a need for him to go on tour because his music wasn’t getting out there. He and his wife barely kept their heads above water, and they were wondering if music would keep a roof over their heads.
Jim was doing all kinds of jobs including construction, driving trucks, and welding. Then he found out his wife was pregnant, and it lit a fire under him to take care of his family. In just a few weeks he was cranking out hits like “Leroy Brown.” They were living on a small farm in Pennsylvania, so he travelled to New York City to present his new songs to his record label and they loved them. His songs began rocketing up the charts including “Operator,” “I Have to Say I Love You In a Song,” “Time In a Bottle,” “Photographs and Memories,” “Time In a Bottle,” reached number one on the music charts a month after Jim died.
All the above success hit around 1972 and Jim ended up on the road almost every day of the year performing concerts even in Europe. Television shows like “American Bandstand,” were constantly after him. Jim loved performing but it became too much. He missed his wife and son and he told her before he went out on the road for his second major tour that when it finished, he was quitting the business. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his promise.
About a year before Jim had become famous, he was supposed to perform at Northwest Louisiana State University for a group of college students, but he got sick and couldn’t do it; he promised he’d be back. Once famous, the university couldn’t believe Jim was willing to come perform and the entire Colosseum (a pretty small gym), was filled with fans. He performed three encores and the last song he sung was “Time in a Bottle.”
The college student who set up the event walked out to the small plane to see Jim and five other passengers off. The plane went down the runway but never got high enough to clear the trees at the end and one of the wings hit the trees and the plane went down on September 20, 1973; Jim was just 30 years old. His wife, Ingrid never remarried and their son A.J. became a singer/musician as well.