If A.J. Croce learned anything from his songwriter father, it had to be through his records. Because, in one of music’s most shocking tragedies, Jim Croce was killed in a 1973 plane crash just as his music career was taking off.
At the time, his son was just 2 years old.
But while A.J. found inspiration in his father’s records — and no doubt benefited from his musical genes — it was another traumatic event that prompted him to take up piano: When he was 4, he was blinded by a brain tumor.
“I think when you’re a kid and you go through stuff, you take it a lot better than you would as an adult,” said Croce, who opens for Yes front man Jon Anderson in Paso Robles June 30. “As a kid, a lot of times you’re pretty resilient.”
While surgeries would restore vision in his left eye over the next six years, the self-taught Croce continued to hone his brand of boogie-woogie piano. A professional musician since 16, Croce began his career playing at his mother’s place, Croce’s restaurant and jazz bar, in San Diego. Since then he has traveled the world as a performer,
performing with acts such as B.B. King, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Dave Matthews. His original songs have climbed the charts in several genres, including blues, Americana and the top 40.
Croce talked to The Tribune about his father and his own music career.