A.J. Croce is a multi-instrumentalist roots-rock artist who has had a 25-plus year career writing, recording and performing a distinctive blend of pop, blues, folk and jazz -- including boogie-woogie piano.
His father, the late Jim Croce, was an American folk singer, songwriter and guitar player whose short-lived professional recording and touring career produced three No. 1 songs and 10 Top 10 hits.
They are very different on paper, but in recent years A.J. has come to realize, “My father and I have more in common than most people think.”
The result is a special concert, “Croce Plays Croce,” that A.J. will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Sheldon Theatre.
It will include Jim Croce’s hits, A.J. Croce’s original songs, and some of the songs that influenced both father and son.
A.J. Croce was just 2 years old when his father died in a plane crash. Jim Croce “found his identity as a songwriter” around 1971, and established his legacy with such era-defining standards as “Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and a classic he wrote for A.J., “Time in a Bottle.”
A.J. grew up with his father’s music. However, he said, “I learned more from his record collection,” particularly country blues performers. “That was the music that really connected for me.”
He became a performer,
“I always wanted my own identity as an artist,” A.J. said. He turned down opportunities to perform his father’s songs and focused on the music that made him happy.
As a teenager, A.J. was taken under the wing of R&B artist Floyd Dixon, who shared the boogie piano with him and introduced him to other classic musicians of the genre. A.J. had his first recording session at 17, and when he was 18, B.B. King invited A.J. to go on the road with him. That led to more tours, more connections and more opportunities to play his own music.
He also wrote songs for others, including Leon Russell, and inspired country legend Willie Nelson to say, “A.J. Croce has wisdom beyond his years. With his music, he represents his generation with a profound sense of honesty in his lyrics and quality in his delivery.”
Throughout his career, A.J. said, he was most influenced by “people who were hard to fit in a box.”
About five years ago, A.J. performed one of his father’s songs in a concert. “I saw the reaction,” he said, and realized how important that music was to him and to others.
“I didn’t want to do a nostalgia show,” he said, but over the next few years he figured out how to put together a show that included his music, his father’s music, plus “the music that connected us both, music that we both loved,” A.J. said.
Each show is an emotional event, filled with energy, laughter and tears as he tells the history of each song. “It’s not something I could do all the time,” A.J. said. “I value the other stuff I do and time off to experience life and to write.”
He plays both piano and guitar in the “Croce Plays Croce” concert.
In addition, he will perform a “new” song by his father. A.J. had known for years about “The Name of the Game,” which was on a tape recording. It apparently was the last song Jim Croce wrote before his death, and would have been included if he had released another album. Instead it’s on A.J.’s latest album, “Just Like Medicine.”
At the Sheldon concert, he said, the audience “will hear everything they want to hear from my father” – and more. A.J. will be joined on stage by a bass player, a drummer and a guitarist.
Signed LPs and CDs will be available following the concert.
Tickets are $35 to $39. In addition, the Sheldon is offering a dining option featuring preshow gourmet cuisine by Bleu Dog Café for $45. The buffet meal will be served in the Sheldon Studio overlooking the stage at 5 p.m. Advance reservations are required; participants must also have tickets to the concert.
For information or reservations, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.