Singer Jim Croce, who died in plane crash in Natchitoches, “gave something to remember”

From The Shreveport Times, Natchitoches News Bureau, Sept. 22, 1973
From The Shreveport Times, Natchitoches News Bureau, Sept. 22, 1973

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.

 

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5 thoughts on “Singer Jim Croce, who died in plane crash in Natchitoches, “gave something to remember””

  1. Great article. Jim Croce was just getting started. We will never know the wonderful songs that would have been.

  2. The urban legend is that Jim Croce and his entourage were suspected of having marijuana with them, and that the Natchitoches police and sheriff department drained the gas tank so that the plane would not be able to take off. However, there was just enough gas in the tank to get off the ground, and the rest is history.

  3. Growing up in the same township as Jim Croce and attending the same schools was a thrill when I learned he lived a few streets from me and then to find that my friends knew him and would meet with him whenever he was in town just floored me. I was invited to meet with him the summer of 73 but never got picked up so I left it as “I’ll see him another time soon”. But that would never happen and I’m still have a broken heart to this day. I have met his cousins and learned so much of this gifted talented man that I launched a Facebook entertainment page https://www.facebook.com/upperdarbybill for all to enjoy. Hope it will thrill everyone that visits.

  4. In 1974 I was performing with my band in Charlotte NC, & was invited by Harry Chapin back stage to his show at an amusement park..My drummer & I were in line at a roller coaster before the afternoon show, & I started talking to a girl, & found out she was from the town where Jim Croce had his last concert where his plane crashed..She lived there, & told me that she knew the sheriff, & he wanted to catch Jim with marijuana, so he drained the gas from Jim’s plane so it wouldn’t take off, but there was enough gas in the tank for the plane to barely take off, & then crash, & kill him.
    This was hushed up so the sheriff wouldn’t be arrested for murder. I was sick when I heard of this senseless murder. I’m sure the sheriff never intended to kill him, but he did..
    I loved Jim Croce as we all did.. My name is Tuffy Williams, & this is a true story..

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