While serving in the National Guard — which Croce joined to avoid fighting in Vietnam — Jim Croce was inspired by a fellow guardsman he occasionally sang with. "This one particular guy, who was named Leroy Brown, decided to go AWOL," said Croce's widow, Ingrid, "and actually came back to get his check." In the song, the "baddest man in the whole damn town" gets toppled by a jealous man. In real life, Leroy Brown was handcuffed and tossed into the brig. Ingrid Croce added, about her husband, "He ended up writing a song about this bad, bad Leroy Brown because he was just so cool."