50 Years of Time in a Bottle | In conversation with A.J. Croce as he tours the songs of his father

“Croce Plays Croce” | 12.03.23, 7:30pm | The Factory, 17105 North Outer 40 Road | All ages | $59.50 – $109.50

St. Louis is in for a multigenerational treat. On December 3rd, A.J. Croce will be playing his father’s songs in “Croce Plays Croce.” In this case, the “father” in question is Jim Croce, the late, legendary folk singer, and the “songs” are 1970s classics like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels),” “Time in a Bottle,” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.” A fifth generation musician, A.J. Croce began on the piano and vocals, and moved on to guitar when he turned 30. You’ll find him on nearly every chart available—blues, soul, pop, rock and roll, and jazz—in a career spanning across 10 albums over the last 30 years. A.J. is in the middle of a multi-city tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jim’s passing in a tragic 1973 plane crash, with performances across the country that will continue into 2024 (see below for a full list of tour dates). And if you’re unable to make the show, BMG is releasing a companion compilation project, The Definitive Croce, on CD and LP this year, which would have been Jim’s 80th birthday.

I was able to talk to A.J. Croce on the road in Jacksonville, Florida, about his family traditions, his band of legends, and his decades-long career.

A.J. Croce

The Arts STL: How’s the weather down in Florida?

A.J. Croce: Not surprisingly, it’s really beautiful. We’re on our way to Ft. Lauderdale after this and then making our way to you in St. Louis.

One of the things I noticed is that your entire band is notable. How did you meet these guys?

AJC:  One at a time! [laughs] The first person I met was David Barard, my bass player. He also sings background vocals. I met him when I was 19 and he was playing with Dr. John at the time. He played with Dr. John for over forty years. We lost touch for a few years, but I was in New Orleans with Allen Toussant and asked if he could recommend a good rhythm section. He recommended David. We reconnected about 8 years ago and he’s been with us ever since.

Gary Mallaber, I met in the studio doing a session in Los Angeles, probably 20 years ago. I first knew about him because he was the drummer for Tupelo Honey and Moondance and all of those Van Morrison [albums, plus] Steve Miller Band, Bonnie Raitt…I mean, this crazy discography. I needed someone to fill in for a date and he’s been with us for 7 years.

James Pennebaker, I was promoting my second album [1995’s That’s Me in the Bar] and was on Austin City Limits, and he played with Leroy Parnell, and we stayed in touch. The ladies [Jackie Wilson and Katrice Donaldson], I met last year.

This is the first time you’re playing your Dad’s music. How is your mom taking it? She must be so proud.

AJC: She doesn’t communicate that well anymore, she has speech aphasia, but whenever I can, I get her on stage with us. She can sing a whole song without a stutter and it’s kind of the only place we get to have this musical conversation with her.

So music is a language that both of your parents speak and they shared it with you. That’s lovely.

A.J. Croce

With all of the treasures in your father’s catalog, how did you decide what to include in this show?

AJC: That’s a tough thing and it changes every night. I had to have a starting point, the hits had to be in the show and it needed a beginning, a middle and an end. In between those markers, I have a lot of freedom. It’s really fun because it changes every night. I play some standards that I grew up playing.

I think that your father is one of the best lyricists that we’ve had. Do you find that you’re inspired in your songwriting by his lyrics?

AJC: I’ve never felt that music was a competition. Music is a language that we all speak. We have our own way of doing it. We can only use our own experiences as our guide. We can riff off of other folks, but they ring hollow at a certain point. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at anyone else.

I think that’s the beauty of so much of his storytelling. He wasn’t afraid of looking like he was in a compromised position.

He was silly.

AJC: Yes—he was.

Your father’s albums are the music that my dad sang to me when I was a baby. Your dad and Linda Ronstadt.

AJC: That’s awesome. I love St. Louis. I can’t wait—see you there! | Melissa Cynova

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit thefactorystl.com.

The late Jim Croce

“Croce Plays Croce” tour dates:

11.29.23 – Melbourne, FL – King Center for the Performing Arts

11.30.23 – The Villages, FL – The Savannah Center

12.02.23 – Huntsville, AL – The Mars Music Hall

12.03.23 – St. Louis, MO – The Factory

12.05.23 – Midwest City, OK – Hudiburg Chevrolet Center

12.06.23 – Wichita, KS – The Cotillion

12.08.23 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theater

12.10.23 – Houston, TX – Bayou Music Center

12.11.23 – Dallas, TX – Majestic Theater

12.12.23 – San Antonio, TX – Tobin Center For The Perf. Arts

12.14.23 – Lubbock, TX – The Buddy Holly Hall

01.26.24 – Anna Maria, FL – The Center of Anna Maria Island

01.27.24 – Avon Park, FL – Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts

01.28.24 – Immokalee, FL – Seminole Casino

01.30.24 – Charlotte, NC – Knight Theatre

01.31.24 – Durham, NC – Fletcher Hall The Carolina Theatre

02.01.24 – Atlanta, GA – Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

02.03.24 – Greenville, SC – Peace Concert Hall

02.04.24 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Music Hall

02.06.24 – Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Theatre

02.08.24 – Washington, D.C. – Warner Theatre

02.09.24 – Englewood, NJ – Bergen Performing Arts Center

02.10.24 – Troy, NY – Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

02.13.24 – Norwalk, CT – Wall Street Theater

02.14.24 – Buffalo, NY – Kleinhans Music Hall

02.15.24 – Concord, NH – Chubb Theatre at CCA

02.17.24 – Providence, RI – Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium

03.23.24 – Memphis, TN – Soundstage at Graceland

03.24.24 – New Orleans, LA – Joy Theater

03.26.24 – Fort Smith, AR – TempleLive

03.28.24 – Lexington, KY – Lexington Opera House

03.29.24 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium

03.30.24 – Carmel, IN – The Palladium

04.03.24 – Holland, MI – Holland Civic Center Place

04.05.24 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater

04.06.24 – Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theatre

04.09.24 – Champaign, IL – Virginia Theatre

04.10.24 – Eau Claire, WI – Pablo Center

04.12.24 – Springfield, MO – Gillioz Theatre

04.13.24 – Kansas City, MO – Kauffman Center

*Additional tour dates to be announced (check www.ajcrocemusic.com).

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