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Croce Plays Croce: Son of iconic folk singer to present tribute at Detroit Lakes theatre April 29

"Croce Plays Croce," a unique tribute by A.J. Croce, son of the late folk singer Jim Croce, will be presented Friday, April 29 at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre. The 7:30 p.m. concert will feature music by both A.J. and Jim Croce as well as some of the songs that influenced them both.

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A.J. Croce, left, son of the late Jim Croce, right, will present a special tribute blending his father's music with his own, along with some of the songs that influenced them both, in a Friday, April 29 concert at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre.
Contributed / Joshua Black Wilkins / Paul Wilson
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DETROIT LAKES — At the beginning of A.J. Croce's music career, he resisted the idea of performing songs by his late father, iconic folk singer Jim Croce.

"It was not ever something I wanted to do," he said in a telephone interview with the Tribune. "Being an impersonator, that wasn’t something I had any interest in — I didn’t feel there was any integrity in that."

Instead, he launched a musical career of his own, composing dozens of songs that would feature on the 10 studio albums he has released. He chose to help preserve his father's musical legacy by working on the publishing of Jim Croce's work, rather than recording it himself.

About 20 years ago, in the process of transferring a pile of tapes (cassette and reel-to-reel) from his father's studio recordings into digital format for archiving purposes, Croce discovered one that featured covers of some songs by other artists — songs that were very familiar.

"The songs that he chose (to cover) were really obscure, and these were the exact songs I had played since I was 13-14 years old," Croce said. "In that moment, I realized we had this musical connection that was deeper than I had known before. That was kind of the first step of putting the 'Croce Plays Croce' show together."

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That show is coming to the stage of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Friday, April 29, starting at 7:30 p.m.

The performance will feature a complete set of the classics that propelled his father to fame — "Operator,” “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Time in a Bottle” (a song written for A.J.), “Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)," and “Lovers Cross," to name a few — along with some of the songs from Croce's own 30-year career in music, plus a handful of the tunes that influenced them both, made famous by the likes of Lieber & Stoller and Bessie Smith.

For this tour, which began in January and concludes next month, Croce will be bringing along a band of three musicians, including drummer Gary Mallaber, bass player and vocalist David Barard and guitar player/multi-instrumentalist James Pennebaker.

"You'll hear all the hits, but also a great deal more, including some deeper (i.e., lesser known) cuts," said Croce.

Even those who may have seen the show before can expect to hear some different songs.

"I like to leave a lot of room for improvisation," Croce said. "Each night is unique. I have such a wonderful band with me, really legendary players — I can go a hundred different directions and they’re going to follow me. It’s such an energetic show. Yeah, there’s ballads and stories about where the songs came from and all of that, but there’s also a good deal of the unexpected, because that is just the most fun for me as a musician."

Though Jim Croce's professional music career was relatively short-lived, lasting from 1966 to 1973 — when he died in a plane crash at just 30 years of age — he produced three No. 1 songs and 10 more that reached the top 10 on Billboard, selling more than 50 million records. He is widely known as one of the greatest songwriters and artists in American history.

A.J. Croce has long surpassed his father in longevity, with a 30-year recording and performing career that has produced 10 studio albums, released on both major and independent labels and producing 20 singles that reached the top 20 on the music charts. He has performed on a wide range of major talk shows and news programs, and toured with legendary artists like B.B. King, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lenny Kravitz and Willie Nelson.

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If you go

What: "Croce Plays Croce," featuring A.J. Croce and his band
Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes
When: Friday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.
How: Tickets can be purchased online at dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html, by phone at 218-844-7469 or in person at the box office

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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