On Sept. 21, 1973, singer Jim Croce, along with an entourage of five people, were killed after their chartered twin-engine Beechcraft plane crashed near the Natchitoches Municipal Airport.
Croce, who was just 30, had just one hour and 10 minutes earlier finished a concert at Northwestern State University and was headed out to perform next in Dallas.
According to Natkchitoches officials, the plane never gained much altitude. One wing reported scraped the edge of a pecan tree near the then-new Hwy. 1 bypass. The plane erolled over and burst apart upon impact with hte ground before coming to rest about 200 yards from the end of hte runway. All passengers were killed instantly.
Croce’s body was found in the copilot’s seat.
Croce had been scheduled to stay overnight in Natchitoches and fly to Dallas the following day, but last minute changes in plans caused him to leave after the concert instead of the following day.
I came across the following article, from UPI (United Press International) News Services on Sept. 22, 1973.
NATCHITOCHES, La. —Jim Croce sat in a folding chair, relaxed and comfortable in his faded blue work shirt and jeans. softly strumming his guitar.
“I’ve flown about 700,000 or 800,000 miles just this past year. I’m starting to feel it now, too. You know, jet lag.”
Then he gave his last concert before 2,000 laughing and cheering students at Northwestern University’s Prather Coliseum. An hour later, alter closing with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” he was dead in the wreckage of an airplane
Rough-hewn, mustachioed, cigar-smoking, weather-beaten Jim Croce gave the students something to remember: music that was honest, sincere, old fashioned, but not slick and spoiled by success.
“I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing now,” was what he said in that last interview before going on one more time
He said he liked performing before college kids in the South, because, “East and West Coast audiences tend to have a ‘show me’ attitude. He was in the middle of a fiv-week tour of one-night concerts in the Southwest.
“Operator,” one of his early hits, and his current big single, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” were the show stoppers. When Croce finished with “Leroy Brown,” he just walked off the stage, leaving many students wondering if that was the end of the concert. It was.
In his 35 minute performance, his new releases, “I Have Name’ and “I Fell in Love with a Roller Derby Queen,” were pleasers, too. He mode the audience laugh when he told them he wrote “Derby Queen” after meeting a fat lady in a bar.
Croce died with his five-man troupe at Natchitoches Airport in the crash of the twin-engine airplane that was taking them to Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
Croce sang with his guitar in a spotlight standing at a microphone at center stage. A few feet away, Comedian George Stevens proceeded Croce’s appearance, which began at 9 p.m. And ended at 9:35 p.m.
“In an industry filled with freak acts, Croce was a welcome and much needed change,” one student said.