Center Presents: Croce Plays Croce: 50th Anniversary Tour

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The Palladium // Saturday, March 30, 8 p.m. ET

February/March 2024

After captivating audiences with songs from Jim Croce’s iconic breakthrough album, “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” (1972), the versatile singer-songwriter A.J. Croce embarks once more on a journey to pay homage to his father’s legendary works. With his albums “Life and Times” and “I Got A Name,” released in 1973 just before Jim Croce’s tragic passing, A.J. Croce brings to life hits like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,” and “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues.” This special 50th-anniversary event promises an unforgettable evening featuring a stellar band and a poignant multimedia presentation.

Join us for a night of nostalgia and celebration honoring the enduring legacy of the Croce musical dynasty. Get your tickets now at thecenterpresents.org!

Center Presents Croce

Janelle Morrison: What was the impetus behind this celebratory tour?

AJ Croce: The first [reason], of course, being 50 years since these albums were first released. The music is still relevant and popular…it’s all over the place. It’s still played on the radio, in films and on television. It’s still very much alive, and I wanted to celebrate that.

Center Presents Croce

It was about 11 years ago [that] I decided to play a show and play some of [Jim Croce’s] music, celebrating what would’ve been his 70th birthday. It was such a wonderful experience, and the audience loved it. I started thinking about [this] idea. It just felt really natural to put this show together.

JM: As an artist with a rich musical heritage, how do you balance honoring your father’s legacy while carving out your own unique identity in the industry?

AJ: I came about performing my music and my father’s music in a very natural, sort of organic way. I didn’t play his music for the first 25 years of my career because I didn’t feel that there was real integrity in it. I love his music, and I’ve worked [on] his catalog behind the scenes as the publisher because I wanted to make sure that his legacy was carried on and the music was treated respectfully. It’s always been a part of [my] life.

Center Presents Croce

Over time, that [mindset] kind of changed…I started playing guitar in my 30s. As a piano player, growing up playing jazz, blues, rock’n’roll and different types of stuff, it wasn’t a challenge for me to play these [Jim Croce’s] songs. I’m always looking for a challenge, and playing jazz and all of that is creative and improvisational…that’s where my focus has been. It was never about being famous; it is about being the best that I could be as a performer.

I was archiving a bunch of my father’s music about 20 years ago, and I heard this one particular tape with all these really obscure songs, which my father had recorded. These were deep cuts of artists like Bessie Smith, Fats Waller and Pink Anderson. They’re pretty obscure artists by today’s standards. I had been playing songs like “You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew” and “Coffee Blues” since I was 13 to 15. So, hearing my father playing these exact songs [on this tape] made me realize that we had not just similar tastes in music but an inclination towards the same types of songs. I realized that we had a deeper commonality, musically, than I had ever thought. Of course, I knew his taste in music because I grew up with his record collection.

JM: You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with legendary musicians like B.B. King, Leon Russell and Allen Toussaint. Looking ahead, are there any new projects or collaborations on the horizon that you’re excited about?

AJ: Collaborations have always been important to me. I wrote a lot of songs with Leon Russell, Allen Toussaint, Dan Penn and John Simon…all have been really great collaborations. John [Simon], over the many years, has worked with me. And then there’s all the different songwriters like Gary Nicholson [GRAMMY®-winner] who’ve been part of my collaborative team. I’m always looking at fun collaborations, and I’ve got a [new] project based on origin stories that’s been in the works for seven to eight years, and [I] will hopefully get into completely working on it starting next year. We’ll see what happens. I know this year is going to bring around a lot of things while still being focused on sharing two generations of the Croce legacy…there’s still a lot coming!

JM: Your live performances are known for their intimacy and energy. How do you connect with your audience during your shows, and what do you hope they take away from the experience?

AJ: I think the thing that people come away with is the joy that my band and I share and feel, and it’s something that rubs off on the audience. Obviously, we’ll play some of the ballads that my father’s famous for, but we’ll also play a lot of up-tempo music. I think people are surprised by the energy of the show. This band and the singers are phenomenal and include legendary members like Gary Mallaber on drums [Van Morrison and The Steve Miller Band] and GRAMMY®-winning bassist David Barard [Allen Toussaint and Dr. John]. I’ve known Barard for 35 years, and he joined my group almost 10 years ago. He and I have a lot of crossing of paths because I played with B.B. King, and he did, too, though we never played [with King] at the same time.

So, this show that we’re bringing to Carmel, Indiana, is heavily guided by my father’s hits, a few of my songs, and some of the connections between us because the stories a big part of this concert.