The "Jim" in this song is not Croce. Ingrid Croce
, who was married to Jim when he died in a 1973 plane crash at age 30, told Songfacts the story: "Jim [Croce] sold air time for a radio station. When he got out of college, his parents wanted him to get a good 9-to-5 job. We had always intended to do music, but he'd had a college education and the first to graduate from his family with a college education, they wanted him to become a professional, to really do something that would get pension, and good solid work.
So Jim went out, because we were married, and he got a job helping me to get through school at the time, and he started selling air time in a really shady area down in south and west Philadelphia. He used to go to some of these pool halls to sell the air time, because it wasn't a very good neighborhood. He would sit there and watch the pool games and see what people were doing, and he ended up with a guy named Jim Walker, who was one of the guys who used to play pool there. And that's really the story behind it: he used to hang out at any of those little shops down on South Street and down in west Philly where it really was quite unacceptable for him to be trying to sell air time down there, but it was one of those things where he was hoping someday he could actually bring his music to the radio, so he thought it might be a good way to get going as a salesman.
Then later he met a guy whose name was Melvin Goldfield, and Melvin was an artist, and he grew up in areas like that. Melvin used to take him down to the dumps down in south Philadelphia and tell him about all kinds of stories that went on down there, and introduced him to a lot of the guys. Jim actually did run into this guy, Big Jim Walker, pool-shootin' son of a gun. And so that story really comes out of an experience that he kind of put the story together."