Remembering J. Geils
Guitarist J. Geils passed away yesterday at his home in Groton, Massachusetts. Born in New York City in 1946, John Warren Geils, Jr. formed an early love for music listening to the jazz records of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington juxtaposed with the blues guitar sounds of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters coming over the radio waves. Geils linked-up with bassist Danny “Dr. Funk” Klein and harmonica player Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz in the mid-1960s and formed an acoustic blues trio under the name Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels. In 1968 the group took a sonic turn, plugging-in their instruments and adding three more members: drummer Stephen Bladd, keyboardist Seth Justman, and singer Peter Wolf. Together they formed the J. Geils Blues Band (later dropping the “Blues” part), quickly gaining a following in the Boston area leading to a contract with Atlantic Records in 1970. That same year, the J. Geils Band released their debut album, giving the group their first hit with a cover of the Contours “First I Look at the Purse.” Over the next decade, the band incorporated more rock and pop in their sound, which gave them even more success, having albums climb the Billboard charts and stay there. The early 1980s brought the J. Geils Band mainstream success and some of their most memorable hits like “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Centerfold.” In 1985 the band called it quits over differences in musical direction. Geils himself went on to further collaborations with Salwitz, put out a pair of albums with the group New Guitar Summit, and several albums of solo work. In 1982 J. Geils moved to his final residence of Groton, Massachusetts, where he was warmly welcomed, and as he so loved was allowed to just be a regular guy. J. Geils was 71.