You both recorded a terrific folk album as a duo Ð Jim and Ingrid Croce. Many of those songsappear in this collection. How discouraging was it that the album never took off?Very discouraging. When we recorded Jim and Ingrid Croce, we were ready to sacrifice whateverit took to promote our Capitol album. We moved from our home in Pennsylvania to New York,which was a tough place to live without money. Throughout 1968 and 1970 we worked very hardto make our music careers a success. But after giving it our very best effort, the album failed toget public acclaim, and we finally decided it was time to move on.
Jim was distraught by his failure in the music industry. A tempest of despair surrounded him aswe packed our things. With his adrenaline pumping, he carried our air conditioner downseventeen flights of stairs. Attempting to vent his anger by throwing the heavy weapon on thelandlord's front step, sadly he missed, and with his toe throbbing, his back aching and all ourpossessions piled high on the truck, he performed his final act of defeat. He heaved his bicycle upon top of our pile of belongings only to have it reverse direction and plummet down, catching hisear in the spokes of a wheel. This was not a good day. As the blood was coagulating on Jim's ear andtears of pain were welling up in his big brown eyes, our friend Gene Pistilli wished us luck andhugged us good-bye. We drove the rental truck with our old red Saab in tow. Without enoughmoney to pay the toll to New Jersey, I threw a handful of pennies in the basket and Jim drove likea bat out of hell across the border. We felt like fugitives in our own land. Once we reached theHoJo on the other side of the bridge, I looked back at the imposing skyline. It was majestic allright, but it had never felt like home.
When our success in the music business seemed unattainable, we moved to the countryside inPennsylvania and opened our home and hearts to our new community. Here we played our musicjust for fun. For one hundred dollars a month, which included all the flowers and vegetables ourkind landlords allowed us to "rescue," we rented a three-room "smokehouse" apartment in an oldfarmhouse in Lyndell, Pennsylvania. Here Jim actually wrote "New York's Not My Home," andslowly we let go of our disappointment and found us a home.
Would you discuss some of Jim's earliest influences-there's so much folk in his earlyrecordings: Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot?The fact that there's a lot of folk in Jim's early recordings is most attributable to the time atwhich Jim was being chronicled. Had you heard Jim sing live, or in a casual performance, youwould also have heard him sing a strong R&B, popular music and traditional English and Irishballads.
Jim's mother, Flora, once told me that from the time he was two, Jim was able to sing songs frombeginning to end without missing a single note or a word. In his lifetime, Jim built a repertoire ofover two thousand songs, and could sing most of them upon request without missing a beat.
When growing up, Jim's father proudly collected a wide variety of 78's and 33's, ranging fromBessie Smith to Italian opera. Jim was immersed in music from an early age and Jim Croce, Sr.,proudly took "Little Jimmy" to perform a variety of well-known Italian songs and popular musicon his little accordion for St. Dorothy's Church's talent shows. Jim squeezed and fingered thatlittle box and sand whenever he got the chance to perform. He was great at it and he just loved theattention.
Before the fold era of the early sixties, Jim was into Jazz and Blues: Satchmo, Fats Waller, andNat "King" Cole. Then he got into Jimmie Rodgers and wanted to yodel and yodel.
As a teenager, his peers were into rock and roll. You can definitely hear the influence of songslike "Searchin'" and "Big Boy Pete" in "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and "Bad, Bad LeroyBrown."
Then when he went to Villanova University and got a job as a DJ on his college station, WWVU,Jim got to listen to all the demo albums the record companies sent to get airplay. GordonLightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Ian and Sylvia, Simon and Garfunkel, Browny Terry andSonny McGee, Hoyt Axton and, of course, Bob Dylan. Just about every fold and popular albumreleased from 1961 to 1965 was available to him, and Jim took great advantage of thisopportunity to learn as many songs as he could.
Tell us about the song, "Time in a Bottle," one of the most heartfelt and ironic lyrics Jim everwrote.When we were living in our little farmhouse in Lyndell, Pennsylvania, Jim was driving a truck,teaching school and playing nights at a local bar called the Riddle Paddock. Although times weretough, I was an enormous optimist. At every turn I felt that financial prosperity and success wereright around the bend. Though fame and fortune kept eluding us, we were so damn happy thatmoney became an issue only when our health insurance premiums were due.
Then one day I got tired of waiting for our ship to come in on the farm. I decided it was way pasttime for Jim to quit his day gigs and work on his music full time. There had to be a way.
I wrote down my first recipe for my delicious Mama's Cheese Blintzes and sent it in to thePillsbury bake contest that was offered on the flour wrapper. Thinking the prize of ten thousanddollars would be enough for us to live on for the rest of our lives, I just knew we had to win!Funny hoe things happen; the check never came, but instead something even more wonderful did.
I remember when I told Jim we were going to have a baby. The look on his face was a combinationof utter fear and sheer ecstasy. Though he was excited about building a family, his big brown eyesregistered, panic and "Oh my God, more responsibility!" But once Jim got over the initial shock ofbecoming a father, he found a new sense of urgency to make his career successful as a singer andsongwriter.
From the moment he learned I was pregnant, Jim felt this was his last chance, before the babycame, to make music his profession and provide for his family, too. That night, he sat down at ourkitchen table and recorded the haunting melody and words for "Time in a Bottle." The nextmorning he played it for me.
Anecdotes From the Early Years
From Rocky Beginnings...
The Story Behind "I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song"
Why Jim Croce Wrote "Operator"
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