Passings: J. Geils (1946 - 2017)

by VVN Music

John Geils, Jr., the leader of the J. Geils Band, died on or about Tuesday (April 11) at his home in Groton, Massachusetts.

Authorities were doing a well-being check on Tuesday when they found Geils dead from what is described as natural causes.

Geils was born in New York City and raised in Morris Plains, NJ where he heard jazz music throughout his youth, taking up trumpet, drums and, eventually, guitar.

It was while he was in school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute that he initially formed the J. Geils Band as Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels with Danny "Dr, Funk: Klein and Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz. Initially playing acoustic blues, they changed focus in 1968 to electric instruments, adding Stephen Bladd and Peter Wolf from the local band The Hallucination.

In 1970, the band was signed to Atlantic records and, on November 16, 1970, released their debut album. Although not a big hit, peaking at 195 on the Billboard 200, it set the stage for a relentless touring cycle that brought the band new fans at each stop. Their second album, 1971's The Morning After, went to 64 and contained their first hit of note, Looking For a Love (1971 / #39). Their third album, Bloodshot (1973), pushed them into the top ten for the first time on the strength of thier single Give It To Me (1973 / #30).

For the rest of the 70's, the J. Geils Band released five more and a series of popular singles including Must of Got Lost (1974 / #12), One Last Kiss (1978 / #35), Come Back (1980 / #32) and Love Stinks (1980 / #38) but their biggest success came in October 1981 with the release of the album Freeze-Frame (1981 / #1).

The dawning of MTV gave the band's charismatic Peter Wolf the perfect vehicle to display his swagger which they used to full effect on their biggest hit, Centerfold (1981 / #1). They quickly followed with Freeze-Frame (1982 / #4) giving them the two biggest hits of their career.

After a live set, Showtime! (1982 / #23), Wolf left the band over the traditional "creative differences" and  the band released one final studio album, You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd (1984 / #80), with Seth Justman out front.

The J. Geils Band recorded just one more song, the theme to the 1985 movie Freight Night, before breaking up. Geils left music completely, spending his time doing car restoration and auto racing. After driving in five professional races, he opened KTR Motorsports in Carlisle, Massachusetts.

Geils once again took up the guitar in 1992, joining Magic Dick in the group Bluestime. He later was part of the New Guitar Summit with Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin and the Kings of Strings with Beaudoin and Jerry Miller. There were also J. Geils Band reunions including a 13-date tour in 1999, along with a series of one-offs including opening for Aerosmith at Fenway Park in 2010.

In 2012, the band went out on tour without Geils who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit trying to stop the band from using his name. He never played with them again.

Outside of the J. Geils Band, Geils recorded two solo albums (Jay Geils Plays Jazz! (2005) and Toe Tappin' Jazz (2009)) along with two albums each with Bluestime and the New Guitar Summit and one with the Kings of Strings.

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