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Jim Croce's Real Legacy Heard on <i>Americana</i> - 2003-11-13

Singer-songwriter Jim Croce was best-known for his lyrical pop hits Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and You Don't Mess Around With Jim, among others. But if you trace Croce's musical roots, you'll discover his love for folk and blues. A new CD has been released of Jim Croce's home recordings, made while he was a budding blues singer, full-time construction worker and suburban Philadelphia family man.

Who knew Jim Croce was, at heart, a tried and true blues man, especially when you hear those catchy Croce tunes like Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

Sure, Jim Croce made a name for himself with songs that were perfect for radio, but his wasn't an overnight success story, and it isn't a story with a happy ending.

Jim Croce's interest in music began at home. His parents introduced him to ragtime and country music. When Jim learned to play accordion, he accompanied his mother who sang Italian opera in their living room. A self-taught guitarist, Jim formed several bands in college. He told an interviewer that, in those days, he performed "anything that people wanted to hear: Blues, rock, a capella, railroad music … anything", including the occasional solo concert in the neighborhood coffeehouse.

To make ends meet, Jim worked as a welder, truck driver, telephone lineman, ditch digger, even a disc jockey. He married his longtime girlfriend Ingrid in 1966. For a wedding present, his father gave them a tape recorder. The couple began recording some of Jim's favorite songs, mostly three-chord blues and haunting country standards.

Jim Croce taped dozens of songs late at night at his kitchen table. Fifteen of them are on Americana, the new collection of home recordings produced by Ingrid and their son, singer-songwriter A.J. Croce. A.J. was two years old when his father was killed in a plane crash while on tour in 1973.

After years of struggling, Jim Croce achieved his greatest fame after his death, the posthumous release of Time In A Bottle and other singles and albums.

Listen closely to this early home recording of Six Days On The Road from Americana, and you'll hear the raw blues style that later became Jim Croce's trademark.