The J. Geils Band

  • Rock band formed in 1968 from Worcester Massachusetts. Members of the band were John Geils (aka J. Geils – lead guitar), Peter Wolf (lead vocals, percussion), Danny Klein (bass guitar), Richard Salwitz (aka Magic Dick – harmonica, saxophone, trumpet), Stephen Jo Bladd (drums, backing vocals) and Seth Justman (keyboards, backing vocals). Wolf and Justman were the primary songwriters.
  • Geils, Klein and Salwitz met in college, where they formed an acoustic blues band called Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels. By 1968, they changed their style, moving to electric guitars and bass, and they changed their name to The J. Geils Blues Band, and finally The J. Geils Band. They recruited 2 members of another Boston-based band to join them – Bladd and Wolf. Prior to joining Geils’ band, Wolf was a radio DJ in Boston, where he developed a charismatic personality and interviewed many musical artists that were performing in town. Wolf quickly became the frontman for The J. Geils Band. Soon after, Justman was added for keyboards, and the band was complete.
  • By the late 60s, they were one of Boston’s most popular local bands. They signed a recording contract in 1970, and their debut album, the self-titled J. Geils Band was released. It barely charted, and it began a run of 8 albums released in the 70s that were modest successes at best. 1973’s Bloodshot album managed to chart at #10 on the album chart, with the single Give It To Me reaching #30 on the Hot 100 chart, and another single – Must of Got Lost – reached #12 in 1974, but in general they were not able to get much attention on the radio.
  • While they didn’t sell a lot of records, they were popular on stage. Wolf was famous for his stage antics, including pole vaulting with the microphone stand, and Magic Dick’s harmonica playing as a lead instrument was innovative at the time. Given their reputation for live performances, they released 2 live albums during the 70s. Their 70s music was a rock & roll approach to covers of R&B, doo-wop and soul music.
  • The J. Geils Band became commercially successful with their first 2 albums of the 80s. In 1980, they released Love Stinks. The album included 2 songs that reached the top 40 – the title track Love Stinks and Come Back. The album eventually was certified platinum, helped along by the success of their second album of the 80s, Freeze-Frame. The album topped the album chart, and was certified 3x platinum. It included the MTV favorite Centerfold, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The title-track Freeze-Frame peaked at #4 on the chart.
  • Their success in the pop music world was not part of Wolf’s vision of the group, and he left the band in 1983. Justman took over lead vocal duties, and the band made a final studio album in 1984, You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd.  The album failed, and the band split up in 1985. Geils put down his guitar to concentrate on auto racing and auto restoration. Eventually, he recorded again, releasing 5 albums of blues and jazz guitar between 1994 and 2009.
  • The band re-united with Wolf (but without Bladd) for a short tour in 1999, and a charity performance in 2005. They continued with occasional performances in 2006, 2009 and 2010. A short tour in 2012 was controversial, in that Geils was replaced by other guitarists for the shows. Geils sued his bandmates, but the tour proceeded. Angry, Geils permanently left, and in 2017 he died of natural causes.
  • The J. Geils Band was another band that ground it out in the music world long before they finally became commercially successful, and it was their decision to lean towards pop that led to the end of the band. They’ve been nominated 5 times for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – alas, the call has yet to come. As are so many of my music memories of the early 80s, their MTV rotation is what I remember the most, with Love Stinks, Centerfold and Freeze-Frame all very popular when music videos started to dominate. The songs and videos are silly nonsense – ahh, the good old days! Here’s the video to Centerfold. One of the catchiest songs of the 80s here – “Na, na, na, na, na, na!”

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