I was just a baby when Buddy Holly died, but when Jim Croce was killed in a small plane crash just 50 miles from my home in Louisiana, I was old enough to be stunned.
I think I was aware that the concert was happening, and at 15, I'm not sure there was a practical way for me to attend, it just never occured to me that the chance would never come again.
I honestly don't think history has given this guy his due. He was a brilliant songwriter.
Article from the Shreveport (LA) Times (September 22, 1974)
Success Escaped Croce Until Death
NATCHITOCHES, The Jim Croce legend lives on.
On the night of September 20, 1973, a fiery plane crash in Natchitoches killed Croce and five of his entourage. It has only been since his death that Croce has achieved the level of success which somehow escaped him during his lifetime.
That Croce was a talented man has never been disputed by critics. His talent consisted of singing, songwriting and instrument playing. He will be remembered not only for his songs and style but also as being a man who put the term "junkyard dog" in the English vocabulary.
Croce's death has been compared to the February 3, 1959 plane crash in which Don McLean made so much of in his "American Pie" as the beginning of the end. That Iowa crash claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson.
The comparison should never be made. Holly, Valens and Richardson had already made stardom. Croce was still seeking his.
The September 20 concert at Northwestern State University, Croce's last, was a vivid account of his life. He told the audience of his life as a truck-driver, construction worker, tractor operator and his many nights in playing in dimly-lit dives and staying in cheap motels.
His final performance was brilliant. His songs were good, his guitar playing was great and his story telling was fascinating. His voice had a quality that was much better live than on records. Despite his performance, Croce was not called to do an encore.
The audience gave polite applause and proceeded to leave the building. There was no standing ovation, hysterical applause or calls for Croce to come back on stage for a few more minutes.
Croce's closing comment was, "See you later."