BY BILLY SUTER
AN INFORMAL Durban show scheduled for its first performances this weekend at Umbilo’s Rhumbelow Theatre, Cunningham Road, will pay tribute to a US singer who cut his first album in 1966 – resulting in 500 copies being released using a $500 wedding gift from his parents.
Those parents had hoped their son would release an album, get music out of his system and then pursue what they labelled as a more “respectable” career, as Wikipedia puts it.
However, music was in the blood of Philadelphia-born, Italian-American Jim Croce… and after all 500 copies of that early album, Facets, were sold, he went on to carve a name for himself in music history, releasing five studio albums and a string of singles before his untimely death in a plane crash.
The folk-rock singer was popular between 1966 and 1973, and topped the Billboard charts twice – with Time in a Bottle and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. His other hits included You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, I’ll Have to Say I Love You in and I Got a Name.
All these songs and more crop up in A Tribute to Jim Croce, a show put together and performed by Durban singer-guitarist Rob Warren, popular frontman for hit Durban band The Black Lapels. This is the group whose previous shows at the Rhumbelow Theatre have included salutes to Paul Simon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
Rob, who will perform on acoustic guitar for the Jim Croce tribute, will be joined by long-time friend and former band mate Steve Murray on second guitar.
The set list will include all the hits, as well as Lovers Cross, Rapid Roy, Roller Derby Queen, Operator, Next Time This Time, and other songs.
“Jim Croce has always been an enigmatic figure in my life. My father introduced me to his music when I wa 12, and I have played his songs ever since, from the earliest days of my musical journey,” says Rob.
“His music leaves me with a deep sense of nostalgia and comfort, and I am looking so forward to sharing these stories.”
Croce died on September 20, 1973, at the age of 30, the day before his I Got a Name single was released.
Wikipedia reports that he was among six people killed when their chartered plane crashed into a pecan tree, while taking off from a Louisiana airport. Others who died in the crash, the website reports, were pilot Robert Elliott, musician Maury Muehleisen, comedian George Stevens, manager and booking agent Kenneth Cortose and road manager Dennis Rast.
Croce had just completed a concert in Natchitoches and was flying to Sherman, Texas, for a concert at Austin College, when the plane crashed.
Wikipedia adds that Croce first performed with his wife, Ingrid, as a duo, their performances including songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie, before they started to write their own material.
During this time, Croce got his first long-term gig at a suburban bar and steakhouse in Pennsylvania called The Riddle Paddock. His set list covered several genres, including blues, country, rock and roll, and folk, reports Wikipedia.
Croce’s son, Adrian, born in 1971, is also a singer-songwriter and pianist. He owns and operates his own record label, Seedling Records.
On July 3, 2012, Ingrid Croce published a memoir about her husband, I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story.
Tickets for A Tribute to Jim Croce cost R150 each and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636. Performances are at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30, and at 2pm and 6.30pm on Sunday, October 1.
The Rhumbelow Theatre is a welcoming, informal venue at 42 Cunningham Road, off Bartle Road, in Umbilo. Seating is at tables of eight. Food may be brought along, or light meals and snacks may be bought at the theatre, but all beverages have to be bought at the bar. See you there!