You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger
and you don’t mess around with Jim.
-Jim Croce: song-writer, marketing professor
You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, released in April 1972. Lay the first line of the chorus on anyone over 40 (maybe younger) and they can recite the entire refrain. I heard it again today over the house system while dining with a client and I stopped to relive that fantastic story. The evocative descriptions and the magnificent choice of verbs told a feature length film story in three minutes start to finish.
What makes that story work is what makes great relational advertising work. A memorable story with a hooks that are easily recalled, written in an economy of words. Unusual descriptions, funky verbs, knowing what to leave out.
Set the scene: Uptown got its’ hustlers, the bowry got its’ bums and 42nd street got a big Jim Walker, he a pool-shootin’ son of gun. I know that place. Bet you do too. Jim didn’t have a convertible, he drivin’ a drop-top Cadillac. When a rival named Slim comes calling, Jim didn’t walk into the pool hall, Jimmy come boppin’ in off the street. But when the cuttin’ was done the only part that wasn’t bloody, was the soles of the big man’s feet. Man I loved that song as a kid. The story hooked me every time the radio cast it. And hell, even though I was a south Alabama country boy just like Slim, I kinda felt sorry for ol’ Jim by the end.
Why do we spend time boring listeners with business blah blah when we could be telling fantastic stories like this?? If radio or TV advertising spun stories like this, you think they’d be memorable and sell product? Maybe we should ask another bad ass character with a great story… The most interesting man in the world.