Croce Plays Croce tour comes to the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday |

Croce Plays Croce tour comes to the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday

A.J. Croce is ready to play his father's music

It took almost 30 years for A.J. Croce to embrace playing his father’s music. Jim Croce, A.J.’s dad, died in a small plane crash in 1973 while his musical career was just taking off. A.J. Croce wasn’t quite two years old at the time. A.J. Croce will be at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night and will play a blend of his tunes, his father’s classics and music from artists who influenced them both.

If A.J. Croce wanted to write dramatic love songs or blues songs, he’d have plenty of material. His story reads like a sad novel. Not only did his father die before he even knew him, he lost and then regained his eyesight, his home caught on fire and then his wife of 24 years died of a rare heart ailment. But through it all his music is what has kept him going.

In the early 1970s Jim Croce was embarking on musical success with hits like “Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown,” “Photographs and Memories” and “Time in a Bottle,” which was written for A.J. A few scant memories, photos, home movies and that song are all A.J. Croce had left of his father’s legacy.

He dove into music at a young age, playing the songs he heard on the radio by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney and others. He mastered the piano and guitar and honed his songwriting and vocal skills. Since he was in his teens, people in the music industry have been asking him to perform and record his father’s music, but he wanted to make his own mark. He did not want to live in the shadow of his father’s success.

A.J. Croce has been touring for 30 years and has 10 studio albums that have done well on the Top 40, Americana and Blues charts.
Joshua Black Wilkins/Courtesy photo

For the past few decades A.J. Croce has played with everyone from B.B. King to Willie Nelson, Earth, Wind and Fire to Lenny Kravitz. He’s been touring for 30 years and has 10 studio albums that have done well on the Top 40, Americana and Blues charts.

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It’s said that time heals all wounds and those decades of doing his own thing may be what has brought A.J. Croce back to his father’s music and has given him time to embrace his own talents and share his father’s music with others on the Croce Plays Croce tour which is a blend of A.J. Croce’s hits, his father’s hits and songs from artists like Lieber and Stoller, Bessie Smith and other folk and roots artists the Croce’s drew inspiration from.

A.J. Croce says he has a song list but not a set list for each show.

“I like to leave my shows a little bit to chance, there needs to be a fair amount of improvisation in every show. Of course, I’ll play all the hits, but besides that, it is up in the air. This show is really about the connection I have with my father, his music and the music that connects us,” A.J. Croce said.

A.J. Croce has played all over Colorado but has yet to play at the Vilar Performing Arts Center and is excited to interact with the crowd at this intimate venue.

“We don’t play straight through; we’ll take some breaks and share stories. And it’s a great band, all on stage are Grammy-winning musicians and legendary players like Gary Mallabur who recorded those great records with Van Morrison in the ‘60s and ‘70s and David Barard who was with Dr. John for so many years and Patti LaBelle and my guitar player is James Pennebaker. They’re just wonderful players and they’ll go in any direction that I am willing to take them, which is the most fun. It keeps it fresh every night and throw in some new songs and old songs,” A.J. Croce said.

From losing his singer-songwriter father before he was two years old to losing his wife of 24 years to a rare heart ailment, A.J. Croce uses music to keep him going.
Joshua Black Wilkins/Courtesy photo

A.J. Croce is based out of Nashville, where he’s been the last 15 years and is excited for the 50th-anniversary tour next fall.

“I’ll be doing a 50th-anniversary tour to celebrate my father’s three albums: “Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Life and Times,” and “I’ve got a Name” and we’ll play all the songs from those albums and more,” A.J. Croce said.

He is also working on his own album.

“Besides spending time writing, playing, trying to exercise a little bit every day, going on walks, reading, writing, I have an album that I am recording in May,” A.J. Croce said. “So, I’ve been planning for that and it’s a little hard to do when you’re touring as much as I am.”

When asked what kind of advice he’d give his younger self, A.J. Croce had this to say:

“I think to not be quite so stubborn. I think I was pretty set in my ways when I was young and had I been a little more open, I would have had more interesting experiences. Not that I haven’t had a world of them, but you can always have more creative and wonderful experiences in this life,” A.J. Croce said.

Get tickets for Wednesday’s show, between A.J.’s and his band’s musical talents to the nostalgia of his father’s lyrics and melodies, it should be another performance that was made for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Reserved seating starts at $38 and this show is a part of the Pick 3/5/8 winter ticket package where the more shows you go to, the more you save. Visit for more information.

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