|"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"|
|Single by Jim Croce|
|from the album Life and Times|
|"A Good Time Man Like Me Ain't Got No Business (Singin' the Blues)"|
|Released||March 20, 1973|
|Terry Cashman, Tommy West|
|Jim Croce singles chronology|
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" is a song written by American folk rock singer Jim Croce. Released as part of his 1973 album Life and Times, the song was a Number One pop hit for him, spending two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1973. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1973.
Croce was nominated for two 1973 Grammy awards in the Pop Male Vocalist and Record of the Year categories for "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown". It was his last number-one single before his death on September 20 of that year.
The song's title character is a tall man from the South Side of Chicago whose size, attitude, and tendency to carry weapons have given him a fearsome reputation. He is said to dress in fancy clothes and wear diamond rings, and to own a custom Lincoln Continental and a Cadillac Eldorado, implying he has a lot of money. One day in a bar he makes a pass at a pretty, married woman named Doris, whose jealous husband proceeds to beat Leroy brutally in the ensuing fight, which Leroy loses badly.
The story of a widely feared man being bested in a fight is similar to that of Croce's earlier song "You Don't Mess Around With Jim."
Croce's inspiration for the song was a friend he met in his brief time in the US Army:
I met him at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We were in lineman (telephone) school together. He stayed there about a week, and one evening he turned around and said he was really fed up and tired. He went AWOL, and then came back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. They put handcuffs on him and took him away. Just to listen to him talk and see how 'bad' he was, I knew someday I was gonna write a song about him.
He told a variation of this story on The Helen Reddy Show in July 1973:
This is a song about a guy I was in the army with... It was at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, that I met this guy. He was not made to climb the tree of knowledge, as they say, but he was strong, so nobody'd ever told him what to do, and after about a week down there he said "Later for this" and decided to go home. So he went AWOL--which means to take your own vacation--and he did. But he made the mistake of coming back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. I don't know if you've ever seen handcuffs put on anybody, but it was SNAP and that was the end of it for a good friend of mine, who I wrote this tune about, named Leroy Brown.
Croce explained the chorus reference to Leroy Brown being "meaner than a junkyard dog":
Yeah, I spent about a year and a half driving those $29 cars, so I drove around a lot looking for a universal joint for a '57 Chevy panel truck or a transmission for a '51 Dodge. I got to know many junkyards well, and they all have those dogs in them. They all have either an axle tied around their necks or an old lawnmower to keep 'em at least slowed down a bit, so you have a decent chance of getting away from them.
On Croce's final album, I Got a Name, a "Leroy Brown" is credited as a backing vocalist.
The song inspired Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury (who cited Croce as one of his artistic inspirations) to write the song "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" for the band's third album, Sheer Heart Attack, released a year after Croce died.
Lyrics for the song Rock n Roll Heaven, popularized by the Righteous Brothers, recall the song and Croce.
In the movie Crocodile Dundee II, Crocodile Dundee's friend, who has a self-perceived image as a "bad guy in the streets", is called Leroy Brown.
7" Single (ABC-11359)
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" was released in April 1973 and peaked at number one on the American charts three months later. It was still on the charts on September 20 when Croce died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was the second #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart to include a curse word ("damn") in its lyrics, after the "Theme from Shaft".