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Croce Plays Croce At The Gallo Center
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Nashville-based singer/songwriter A.J. Croce is scheduled to appear in concert Saturday, Oct. 16 at Mary Stuart Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.

The son of the late Jim Croce, A.J. has always traveled on his own musical road. For more than 20 years, the creative pop iconoclast has tapped a variety of Americana sounds in crafting his music. Many of Croce’s albums have appeared on Top 40, AAA, Americana, College, and Blues charts and when his breakout sophomore CD That’s Me in the Bar was reissued, it wound up charting in two separate decades.

The Oct. 16 show starts at 8 p.m.; Gallo Center is at 1000 I St., Modesto.

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Always interested in exploring new creative territories, A.J. has created a unique concert experience celebrating both his own music and that of his father, the late troubadour Jim Croce. Entitled “Croce Plays Croce,” the evening finds A.J. Croce performing his songs, his father’s tunes and music that influenced both of them.

A.J. was only two years old when Jim Croce died in a tragic airplane crash in 1973, so he didn’t know his father’s music firsthand. Instead, “I came to love it in the same way everyone else did,” he explained, “by listening to the albums.” While he describes his father’s music as “part of me, part of my life,” A.J. never really performed those songs live. As a piano player, his interests tended to favor the blues and jazz-rooted music of musicians like Ray Charles and Allen Toussaint.

A few years ago, however, A.J. was digitalizing some of his father’s old tapes and came across a cassette filled with covers of old blues and folk tunes by the likes of Fats Waller, Bessie Smith and Pink Anderson. It was a revelation to him. “He was playing stuff I played myself,” A.J. revealed, adding that “stuff made sense” discovering that his father and he had “all the music common.”

As he started to learn his father’s tunes, A.J. had to do it “the old fashion way, by listening to the recordings” because there were no chord books of Jim Croce music. A.J., who was developing his own guitar playing prowess, was particularly impressed with the complexities of his father’s compositions, especially in interplay between Croce and his longtime collaborator, lead guitarist Maury Muehleisen, who died with Croce in that fatal plane crash.

Jim Croce found long-overdue success in 1972 following years of struggling to make a name in the music business. That year he released two albums, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim and Life and Times, that spawned the hit singles “You Don't Mess Around With Jim,” “Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels),” “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (the latter two tunes both reached Number #1). His final studio effort, I’ve Got a Name, was released in December of 1973, less than three months after his death. Three more hits (“Workin' at the Car Wash Blues,” “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” and the title song) came from that album, which reached #2 in the album charts. A.J. pointed out that these three classic albums amazingly were recorded in just a one-and-a-half-year time period. Jim Croce, who was just 30 when he died, has had his folk-rock music remain popular over the years. His record sales have surpassed the 45 million mark, and his songs have appeared on over 375 compilations.

A.J.’s most recent release is an eclectic new covers album called By Request through Compass Records. Propelled by his spirited, loose-and-easy piano mastery and emotive vocals, Croce revisits these musical memories covering songs by artists including Allen Toussaint, Billy Preston, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Faces, Randy Newman and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.