Puneet Varma (Editor)

You Don't Mess Around with Jim (song)

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Released  June 1972
Genre  Folk rock
Format  7" 45 RPM
Length  3:02
B-side  "Photographs and Memories"
Recorded  October 11, 1971; The Hit Factory (New York City)

"You Don't Mess Around with Jim" is a 1972 single by Jim Croce from his album of the same name. The song was also Croce's debut single when it was released in June 1972 on ABC Records as ABC-11328. The song first aired on KHJ 930 AM in Los Angeles when ABC Records promotion man Marty Kupps took the single to the radio station where it appeared on the KHJ "30" chart at number 27 during the week of June 6th 1972. After spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song reached a peak of #8 the week ending Sept. 9, 1972. Croce performed the song on American Bandstand on Aug. 12, 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 68 song for 1972.



The lyrics are set at an underground pool hall on 42nd Street in New York City. "Big" Jim Walker, a pool hustler who is not too bright but is respected because of his tough reputation, his considerable strength and size, and his skill at pool, has formed a sort of gang of "bad folks" who regularly gather at night in the pool hall. Their recurring word of advice is as follows:

A fellow pool player named Willie "Slim" McCoy comes from south Alabama to the pool hall to get his money back from Jim after being hustled out of it the previous week. When Jim comes in, McCoy ambushes and kills him, stabbing him in "about a hundred places" (to the point where "the only part that wasn't bloody was the soles of [his] feet") and shooting him "in a couple more". It is implied that McCoy now has his money back as well as the respect formerly granted to Jim, and the regulars at the pool hall have now changed their advice to strangers: "You don't mess around with Slim".

The song is noted for its spoken recitation, which is heard following the third verse and chorus:

This is followed by the repeat of the Chorus and the repeated Coda before the song's fade.

Croce tells a similar story— a much-feared tough guy who gets his comeuppance from someone even tougher— in his later hit single "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown".

In popular culture

  • On an episode of the ABC drama Eli Stone, Victor Garber performed this song in one of Eli's visions.
  • The song was featured in an episode of The Greatest American Hero "Don't Mess Around With Jim". It also inspired the episode title.
  • It was played during the Life on Mars episode "All the Young Dudes"
  • Josh Turner covered the song on his album Long Black Train.
  • Poison covered the song as a bonus track on the 2006 remastered edition of their album Look What The Cat Dragged In.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic references the song in his own song, "CNR" from the album Alpocalypse ("You can spit in the wind or tug on Superman's cape, but Lord no, you just don't mess around with CNR").
  • The song featured in the first episode of ABC Family series Bunheads.
  • Live performances

    Live versions of the song have been released on both of Croce's live albums, Have You Heard: Jim Croce Live, and Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour.

    Track listing

    7" Single (ABC-11328)

    1. "You Don't Mess Around With Jim " - 3:00
    2. "Photographs and Memories" - 2:03


    You Don't Mess Around with Jim (song) Wikipedia

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