|The J. Geils Band
||Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
||Rock, blues rock (early), new wave (late)
||1967–1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–present
||Atlantic, EMI America
||J. Geils (deceased)
Stephen Jo Bladd
The J. Geils Band was an American rock band formed in 1967 in Worcester, Massachusetts, under the leadership of guitarist John “J.” Geils.
The band played R&B-influenced blues rock during the 1970s, and soon achieved commercial success before moving towards a more new wave mainstream sound in the early 1980s, which would soon bring the band to its commercial peak. Since its initial break-up in 1985, the band has reunited several times.
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 1971), 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), “Love Stinks” which reached #38 in 1980 (and was featured in several films), their single “Freeze-Frame” which reached #4 in the Billboard Top 200 in 1981, as well as the single “Centerfold“, which charted to No. 1 in the United States in early 1982.
The band started as an acoustic blues trio in the mid 1960s, with vocalist and 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 Halucinations’, who were a frequent performing band at the Boston venue The Boston Tea Party on 53 Berkeley Street in Boston, MA. Drummer Stephen Jo Bladd and his fellow 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 following year, former fan Seth Justman joined as an organist, and the band started to earn a sizable local following in the Boston. MA area. The group signed to Atlantic Records in 1970.
1970s touring, recordings and early Top 40 success
After spending the better part of 1970 playing live shows around the US opening for artists as electic 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 November of that year. The band received FM radio airplay with their first single, a rock-cover of The Contours‘ Motown hit, “First I Look at the Purse“.
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 in Boston (at the Boston Garden) and Detroit (at the Cobo Arena).
The band began to get 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 which was released in October 1971 and which was their Top 40 debut in 1972 (at # 39 on the Billboard charts). The song “Cry One More Time” (also on |The Morning After) was later covered by Gram Parsons on his debut album in 1973.
After the release of their first two albums, and keeping a busy show schedule, it was the The J. Geils Band’s 3rd 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). 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 would soon yield their biggest hit single to date, the Justman/Wolf composition ‘Must of Got Lost‘ which made it up to #12 on the Billboard Top 100 the following year in early 1975. It was later that year that the band started playing arenas across the US with a variety of artists, including The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, Rod Stewart, amongst others. 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).
1980s commercial peak and breakup
The group would soon hit their commercial peak and achieve mainstream success in the early 1980s, first with the humorous Love Stinks, then with their hit-album Freeze Frame, which reached #1 in early 1982 for four weeks. The album included the massive hit-single “Centerfold” (No. 1 for six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100), and then the title cut (No. 4). “Centerfold” also became their only major hit single in the United Kingdom, where it reached No. 3 in February 1982. The band’s videos for Centerfold and Freeze-Frame were heavily rotated on MTV as well which contributed to the album’s success. Another live album, Showtime (1982), contained their hit cover of “I Do” (No. 24), a 1965 hit by The Marvelows. Wolf left the group in 1983 over artistic disagreements over the direction of their music.
The band went on to record one more album of new material, You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Odd, after Wolf left. He was not replaced, and Seth Justman took over most of the vocal duties. 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 for Stephen Jo Bladd 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, with the J. Geils Band occasionally reuniting ever since
On February 26, 2005, the band (with drummer Marty Richards filling in for Bladd) reunited at Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts 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 once again filling in for Bladd 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, New Jersey, selling out the Borgata’s 2,000-seat Event Center.
On December 31, 2009, the original members (with Marty Richards again subbing for Stephen Jo Bladd) reunited for a one-night live gig at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
The band played a benefit in Boston for Big Brothers/Big Sisters on January 23, 2010, which Wolf called the “last” Geils show. “You never say never,” Wolf noted, “But I can tell you in my heart of hearts that as far as I know – and I’m a pretty good source – there is nothing I can think of that’s planned. So this is basically it right now.”
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. 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. Touring guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry, and touring drummer Tom Arey joined the band for the tour.
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 played for an hour as 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 some solo shows in the gap.
Since the semi-retirement of the band, 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.
Magic Dick recently 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 toured with Kid Rock during the first half of 2008.
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.
In September 2010 it was announced that the J. Geils Band was a finalist nominee for selection to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2011, but were not selected for induction that year. In October 2016 they were once again nominated. They will be nominated for the Class of 2018.
Geils was found dead in his home in Groton, Massachusetts on April 11, 2017, at the age of 71.
- Danny Klein – bass (1967–1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–present)
- Magic Dick – harmonica, trumpet, saxophone (1967–1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–present)
- Peter Wolf – lead vocals (1967–1983, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–present)
- Seth Justman – keyboards, backing vocals (1968–1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–present)
Current touring members
- Duke Levine – lead guitar (2011–present)
- Kevin Barry – rhythm guitar (2012–present)
- Tom Arey – drums (2012–present)
- Andricka Hall – backing vocals (1999, 2010–present)
- Nichelle Tillman – backing vocals (2010–present)
- Stephen Bladd – drums (1967–1985, 2006)
- J. Geils – lead guitar (1967–1985, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2009–2012)
Former touring members
- Sim Cain – drums (1999)
- Catherine Russell – backing vocals (1999)
- Marty Richards – drums (2005, 2009–2011)
- Mitch Chakour – backing vocals (2009–2010)