John “Jay” Geils Jr. (he was referred to on stage by the name “Jerome” — that was an onstage Peter Wolfism that seemed to stick) loved music and cars for nearly all of his 71 years. He played guitar for one of the biggest bands of the ’70s and early ’80s, which eponymously bore his name.. The J.Geils Band..Live, you had to see them explode. .It was not a pretty site when headliners would go on after them to realize that all the “air” in the hall had been sucked out.. How could you not love a band whose harmonica player is named “Magic Dick”?. How could you not love a band whose costumes were the colors of black, pink and chartreuse… The perfect uniform for a street “struttin” pimp confab.
They certainly were “bad and boujee”. But the slick hybrid of synth-flecked rock and R&B that later lifted the band to chart-topping fame was hardly his passion. He loved the blues and early jazz. They were his framework. He played trumpet before guitar, beginning at 8, in suburban New Jersey. In eighth grade, he subscribed to Downbeat, the jazz bible. He didn’t pick up guitar until high school.
The Geils band had established roots in the Boston area through their live show which led to a record deal with B&B/Rock label Atlantic Records in 1970. That year their debut album simply titled, “The J.Geils Band” didn’t get the traction they hoped. But Their follow-up,” which was produced by Bill Szymcyk. “The Morning After” garnered great press and radio play while their live performances had become legendary. Between the years 1969 to1973 The J. Geils had been Boston’s house band. They were the only band in Boston that were any good. Peter Wolf concert rants were so famous that no one could touch the band. They were the American Rolling Stones!
The J. Geils Band made many fine, sometimes great, studio albums but where they really captured their full, thrilling potential was on the concert stage. Most live albums tend to be a poor excuse for actually being at the show in question, but the Geils band’s live albums jumped out of the speakers with so much joy, fun, and unquenchable rock & roll spirit that you might as well be there. There wasn’t a “frat” party in America where this album was not played! “Full House” was their first live record, and it is a blast from start to finish (the albums lasted a mere 36 minutes). Recorded in 1972 at Detroit’s Cinderella Ballroom, the group runs through songs from their first two albums kicking out the jams on rockers like the Motown chestnut “First I Look at the Purse,”.. an Otis Rush’s gem. “Homework,” and one of the group’s first self-penned classics, “Hard Drivin’ Man,” as well as positively scorching through an incredible version of John Lee Hooker’s dark and evil blues “Serves You Right to Suffer.” It’s easy to overlook J.Geils himself on guitar when you have a magnetic front-man like Peter Wolf or the unstoppable force that is harp player Magic Dick (check “Whammer Jammer” ..proof of his greatness), but his soloing on this track serves notice that he could tear off a ferocious solo with the best of them. Full House, all though too oush short, gives a “double down” shot of rock & roll genius by one of the great bands of the era and one of the best live albums ever recorded. It only went to #54 on the Billboard Album chart but it was the breakthrough the band and it set them up perfectly for Top 40 airplay…
After many studio albums and a double live recording The J.Geils Band were dropped by Atlantic Records and signed an lucrative global deal with EMI Records immediately scored with Sanctuary, their first gold album in five years. Now, radio programmers have jumped on the track Love Stinks, and the band is gearing up for its most extensive tour ever, kicking off a U.S. trek in Miami, followed by a European jaunt and its first visit to Japan. After thirteen years together, it feels like the first time all over again, and the atmosphere in the rehearsal loft — “Geils World Headquarters” — is definitely up.. Like magic in a bottle their 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 “Freeze Frame” which peaked at #4 in April 1982. “Centerfold” became their only major hit single in Great Britain, where it reached No. 3 in February 1982. The band’s videos for “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” were in heavy rotation on MTV as well, which contributed to the album’s success.
The J. Geils Band initially called it quits in the mid-1980s; and then reunited for a tour in 1999. They continued playing on and off for the next decade or so, before Geils left the band for good in 2012. His second passion was rebuilding vintage Italian sports cars. He then filed a lawsuit over the use of the name “J. Geils Band” by the other musicians claiming ownership of the name in a trademark case that wasn’t as clear-cut as one might think. The suit was finally settled in 2015, with Geils allowed to perform under his own name and the others free to perform without Jay Geils as the J. Geils Band. After four nominations they’ve still not been inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.