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The J. Geils Band

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It’s a tremendous irony when a legendary band finally achieves its longterm goal of mainstream pop success, only to fade upon reaching the pinnacle. The Boston based J. Geils Band, featuring the intensely extroverted frontman Peter Wolf, had a reputation from its beginnings in 1969 as a great blues-influenced rock outfit, and became one of the genre’s top touring attractions throughout the 70s—without any across the board hit singles. Then came 1982 and the catchy “Centerfold,” which stayed at #1 for six weeks, and its Top 5 follow-up hit “Freeze Frame.” Tensions that had been building exploded during the recording of a studio follow-up, and Wolf left the band, leading to its ultimate demise quickly after its brief dance with superstardom.

Wolf’s background with the blues went back not only to his mid-60s days with The Hallucinations, but also to an impressive stint as a music and program director and DJ for a prominent Boston blues station. No doubt his own musicality was inspired by the many legends he had interviewed in this gig, from John Lee Hooker and Mose Allison to Howlin’ Wolf and Carla Thomas. His later rock stardom paralleled that of many up and comers he had also featured on his show—Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck and Van Morrison.

In 1967, Wolf’s cohorts in The Hallucinations began to seek other artistic interests, leaving him and drummer Stephen Jo Bladd to search for a new ensemble. While attending an open-mike event at a local coffeehouse, they met guitarist Jerome Geils, harpist Magic Dick and bassist Danny Klein and decided to form a new band. At the time, Geils was under an exclusive management contract; the manager, to protect his interests, would not let his client play with Wolf unless the band was called the J. Geils Band.

The J. Geils Band soon moved to Montreal, where they learned obscure Blues and R&B material, mainly from Wolf’s vast record collection. When they moved back to Boston, the J. Geils Band immediately became a popular local favorite. In 1970, they released their self-titled debut album on Atlantic, followed by The Morning After which included the hit single "Looking for a Love". Originally only popular in the northeast, the J. Geils Band toured incessantly and won fans with their dance in the aisles, non-stop party style of concert performance. The J. Geils Band released the top 10 album Bloodshot in 1973, which produced the favorite "Give It to Me". They followed with another hit album in 1974, Nightmares.

Their live shows remained popular throughout the mid-'70s, but neither Hot Line (1975) or the live Blow Your Face Out (1976) were commercially successful. The band revamped its sound and shortened its name to "Geils" for 1977's Monkey Island. While the album received good reviews, the record failed to bring the group increased sales. A year later, The J. Geils Band left Atlantic for EMI, releasing Sanctuary later that year. Sanctuary slowly gained a following, becoming their first gold album since Bloodshot. Love Stinks (1980) expanded the group's following even more, peaking at number 18 in the charts. Then came their “Centerfold” sensation, and the gold selling live album Showtime.

Keyboardist Seth Justman took Wolf’s place on vocals and in 1984 the new line up released You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd but broke up shortly after. Jerome Geils and Magic Dick later went on to form another blues band called Bluestime. Wolf Wolf had two Top 40 hit albums in the 1980's with Lights Out and Come As You Are. In 1998, he released the critically acclaimed album, Fool's Parade and the following year, in the age of megabuck reunions, he got back together with the old band for a successful tour.

© 2004