The J. Geils Band
|Origin||Worcester, Massachusetts, United States|
|Genres||Rock, blues rock (early), new wave (late)|
|1968-1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009-2015|
|Labels||Atlantic, EMI America|
|J. Geils (deceased)|
The J. Geils Band was an American rock band formed in 1968, in Worcester, Massachusetts, under the leadership of guitarist John "J." Geils. The original band members included vocalist Peter Wolf, harmonica and saxophone player Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz, drummer Stephen Bladd, vocalist/keyboardist Seth Justman and bassist Danny Klein. Wolf and Justman served as principal songwriters. The band played R&B-influenced blues rock during the 1970s and soon achieved commercial success before moving towards a more mainstream radio-friendly sound in the early 1980s, which brought the band to its commercial peak. After Wolf left the band in 1983 to pursue a solo career, the band released one more album in 1984 with Justman on lead vocals before breaking up in 1985. Beginning in 1999, the band had several reunions prior to the death of its namesake founder J. Geils on April 11, 2017.
The band first released several Top 40 singles in the early 1970s, including a cover of the song "Lookin' for a Love" by The Valentinos (which reached #39 in the Billboard Top 100 in 1972), as well as the single "Give It to Me" (which reached #30 in 1973). Their biggest hits included "Must of Got Lost" (which reached #12 in the Billboard Top 100 in 1975), "Come Back" (which reached #32 in 1980), "Love Stinks" (which reached #38 in 1980 and was featured in several films), "Freeze-Frame" (which reached #4 in the Billboard Top 200 in 1981), and "Centerfold" (which reached #1 in the United States in early 1982).
The band started as an acoustic blues trio in the mid-1960s, with guitarist John Geils, bassist Danny Klein (Dr. Funk) and harmonica player Richard Salwitz (stage name Magic Dick). The band formed under the name Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels while Geils was attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute for a couple of semesters. In 1968, the band switched focus, starting to play electric guitar and bass and recruiting two fellow musicians from a local Boston, MA band called The Hallucinations, who were a frequent performing band at the Boston Tea Party concert venue on 53 Berkeley Street. They were the drummer Stephen Bladd and his bandmate, (who was the fast-talking former WBCN disc jockey) singer Peter Wolf, born Peter Blankenfeld (originally from the Bronx, NY). They became The J. Geils Blues Band, later dropping the word "Blues" from the band name. The same year, former fan Seth Justman joined on keyboards, and the band started to earn a sizable local following in the Boston area. The band was choosy with its various offers of contracts, and unofficial live recordings circulated: as noted in Creem, "WBCN had the infamous J. Geils 'bathroom tapes' (that were almost exactly what the name implies) and a tape of their performance at Alternate Media Conference at Goddard College, but these hardly sufficed." The group ultimately signed to Atlantic Records in 1970. Initial influences included James Cotton and Little Walter, indeed in a later interview, harmonica star Magic Dick revealed that the whole band were "harp freaks".
After spending the better part of 1970 playing live shows around the US opening for artists as eclectic as BB King, Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers and The Byrds, The J. Geils Band recorded their debut LP The J. Geils Band in August 1970 in A&R Studios in New York City, and it was released in November of that year. The band started to get airplay with release of their first single, a rock-cover of The Contours' Motown hit, "First I Look at the Purse", and soon the band would get more AM radio airplay with a series of several successful singles in the early 1970s, the first one being a cover version of The Valentinos' "Lookin' for a Love", which appeared on their second album The Morning After and was their Top 40 debut in 1972 (at #39 on the Billboard charts). The album was released in October 1971. The song "Cry One More Time" (also on The Morning After) was later covered by Gram Parsons on his debut album in 1973.
Through constant touring, the band soon built a large following in the US for their energetic live shows, with the charismatic stage-antics and "microphone-stand-pole-vaulting" of singer Peter Wolf, as well as its innovative use of the harmonica as a lead instrument. Harmonicalinks.com later called Magic Dick "a pioneer in sound and style for rock harmonica."AllMusic.com described their 1970s period as a band "pure and simple, churning out greasy covers of obscure R&B, doo wop, and soul tunes, while cutting them with a healthy dose of Stonesy swagger." On August 17, 1971, at a show on the Boston Common, The Allman Brothers Band named The J. Geils Band as its favorite local band. Both bands later played the last show at the Fillmore East prior to the venue closing. Although living in Boston, the band had always considered Detroit its second home because of its enormous popularity there. Two of its three live albums were recorded in Detroit at the Cinderella Ballroom and Pine Knob Music Theater (now DTE Energy Music Theater). Their second live album, 1976's Blow Your Face Out, was recorded at the Boston Garden and Detroit's Cobo Arena.
After the release of their first two albums and keeping a busy show schedule, it was The J. Geils Band's third album Bloodshot which was the first commercial breakthrough for the band, reaching #10 on the Billboard 200 album charts in the United States in 1973 and spawning the single "Give It to Me", which went to #30 in the Billboard Charts following the album's release in 1973. The original U.S. copies of Bloodshot were distributed in red vinyl, (instead of the customary black), with matching red 1950's style Atlantic Records labels. The band would continue to use these vintage-style Atlantic labels, in different colors with each album release, throughout their remaining tenure with the label.[better source needed] Seeking to seize on this commercial success, the band released their following album Ladies Invited in November of that same year, which debuted at #51 but didn't match the commercial success of Bloodshot. After spending the early part of 1974 on the road with an active touring schedule, the band went back into the studio and recorded their fifth album Nightmares...and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, which yielded a big hit single, the Justman/Wolf composition "Must of Got Lost", which reached #12 on the Billboard Top 100 in early 1975. Later that year the band started playing arenas across the US with a variety of artists including The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, and Rod Stewart. After their initial commercial success and with constant touring, the group seemed destined to be nothing more than a party band until the release of Monkey Island (1977), followed by Sanctuary (1978), which charted at No. 49 on the Billboard 200 and spun off a sizable hit single in "One Last Kiss" (No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100).
The group hit their commercial peak and achieved mainstream success in the early 1980s, first with the humorous Love Stinks which was released in January 1980 and yielded two Top 40 singles, the song "Come Back" which peaked at #32 on the Billboard chart, as well as the title track "Love Stinks" which went to #38. "Love Stinks" remained a staple in FM radio in the 80's and was showcased in the 1998 hit film The Wedding Singer when Adam Sandler performs it in the film, and it also appeared on the film's soundtrack The Wedding Singer Volume 2, also released in 1998. The band spent the better part of 1980 touring the US, Europe as well as touring Japan for the first time. The band followed up the success of Love Stinks with their hit album Freeze Frame, which reached #1 in early 1982 for four weeks. The first single "Centerfold" which peaked at No. 1 for six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100) "Centerfold" also became their only major hit single in the United Kingdom, where it reached No. 3 in February 1982. The title-cut "Freeze Frame" peaked at #4 in April 1982. The flip side of "Freeze Frame", "Flamethrower" received airplay on Urban contemporary radio notably, in Metro Detroit, and reached number 25 on the Billboard soul chart and peaked at 12 on U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play. The song also received airplay on rock and Top 40 stations. The third and final singles released from the album "Angel in Blue" peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 The band's videos for "Centerfold" and "Freeze Frame" were in heavy rotation on MTV as well, which contributed to the album's success. During 1982 the band was frequently selling out arenas around the US, including a month-long tour with U2 as their support act in March 1982., The band also undertook a two-month tour of Europe playing with The Rolling Stones from June & July of that year as well. The band followed up on the international success of Freeze Frame with the release of another live album, Showtime!, which contained their #24 live hit cover of "I Do", originally a 1965 hit by the Marvelows, which the band remade for their 1977 Monkey Island album.
Wolf left the group in 1983 over disagreements on the group's musical direction. Many years later in 2016, Wolf offered the following recollection of the disagreements within the group that lead to his departure: "I did not leave the band, but the majority of the band wanted to move in another direction.[...] They wanted to continue in a pop-techno way, [and] it wasn't my thing."
The band went on to record one more album of new material, You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd. Seth Justman took over lead vocal duties in Wolf's absence. The album produced only one single, "Concealed Weapons", and was not a commercial success. The group then disbanded in 1985 after contributing the title song to the 1985 horror film Fright Night.
The group reunited with Wolf in 1999 for a 13-date tour of the East Coast and upper Midwest. Rollins Band drummer Sim Cain sat in on drums for this tour, which also saw the band supported by backup singers Andricka Hall and Catherine Russell, as well as the Uptown Horns (who had also appeared with the group on its Freeze Frame Tour). After the '99 reunion tour finished at that year's end, Wolf returned to touring with his own backup band.
On February 26, 2005, the band (with drummer Marty Richards) reunited at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA, for a charity show for the Cam Neely Foundation for cancer care. On May 22, 2006, all six original members had a surprise reunion at bassist Danny Klein's 60th birthday party at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston.
On February 19, 2009, the band reunited again to perform the opening concert at the new House of Blues in Boston on Lansdowne Street (formerly the location of Avalon, Axis, The Embassy and The Modern), with Marty Richards on drums and Mitch Chakour supplying backup vocals. Subsequently, they played two shows on April 24 and 25 at Detroit's Fillmore Theater (formerly State Theater). They also did a second show on Lansdowne Street on April 28.
On July 11, 2009, The J. Geils Band played at the Borgata Hotel/Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, selling out the Borgata's 2,000-seat event center. On December 31, 2009, the band reunited for a one-night live gig at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
The band played a benefit in Boston for Big Brothers/Big Sisters on January 23, 2010. On August 14, 2010, The J. Geils Band reunited once again to open for Aerosmith at a sold-out show at Fenway Park. For their 2010 dates, the band was again supported by the Uptown Horns along with backup singers Mitch Chakour, Andricka Hall and Nichelle Tillman. Hall and Tillman continued on in the band for their 2011 and 2012 tours, as did the Uptown Horns. Since this time, Wolf and Geils had also both been touring as solo artists. Danny Klein formed a new band called Danny Klein's Full House that was dedicated to playing the music of The J. Geils Band.
The J. Geils Band embarked on a short U.S. tour in August/September 2012. However, they left for the tour without J. Geils, replaced by touring guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry, along with touring drummer Tom Arey. Geils filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the other members of the group over use of the name for a tour without him. He named band members Richard Salwitz, Danny Klein, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman in the lawsuit filed in Boston Superior Court, claiming that they "planned and conspired" to continue touring without him and were unlawfully using the group's trademarked name. Geils, angry at his bandmates for what they did, permanently left the band. Geils died in 2017.
On May 30, 2013, The J. Geils Band performed six songs as part of the Boston Strong concert at the TD Garden in Boston. The concert, a benefit for victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombing victims, also featured Aerosmith, James Taylor, Boston, Dropkick Murphys, New Kids on the Block, Bell Biv DeVoe, Boyz II Men, Jimmy Buffett, Carole King, Extreme and Jason Aldean.
In 2013 the band was the opening act for Bon Jovi in multiple locations across the United States. Beginning in the fall of 2014 and through the beginning of 2015, The J. Geils Band was the opening act for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band on most tour dates across North America, along with a few solo shows.
Since the breakup of the band in 1985, J. Geils began restoring sports cars in Massachusetts and started the performance shop KTR European Motorsports in Ayer, Massachusetts. In 1992, he joined his old bandmate Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz to form the band Bluestime, which released two records: the self-titled Bluestime (1994) and Little Car Blues (1996) on Rounder Records. In 2004, Geils produced the album Nail It! for Massachusetts-based blues/rock group The Installers (Francesca Records No. 1011). He also occasionally performed live with the group. The December 2009 edition of Vintage Guitar (magazine) featured an in-depth interview with Geils by Mambo Sons guitarist Tom Guerra. In the interview, Geils revealed his playing approach, jazz influences and choice of instruments.
Magic Dick contributed his harmonica playing and some vocals as part of a live recording called Command Performance by the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue featuring The Tommy Castro Band, Deanna Bogart, Ronnie Baker Brooks and others. Since 2007, he has toured as part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue on different Blues Cruises and again on land-based shows.
Peter Wolf followed his time in the band with a moderately successful solo career, having six solo singles chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s and early 1990s. He continued to release albums into the 2010s. He toured with Kid Rock during the first half of 2008.