1967 in Worcester, Massachusetts
- Peter Wolf (born Peter W. Blankfield on March 7, 1946 in The Bronx, New York City) - Lead vocals, songwriter
- Seth Justman (born January 27, 1951 in Washington, D.C.) - Organ, synthesizer, vocals, songwriter
- J. Geils (born John W. Geils, Jr. on February 20, 1946 in New York City) - Guitar
- Magic Dick (born Richard Salwitz on May 13, 1945 in New London, Connecticut) - Harmonica, trumpet, saxophone
- Danny Klein (born May 23, 1946 in New York City) - Bass guitar
- Stephen Bladd (born Stephen Jo Bladd on July 13, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts) - Drums, percussion, vocals
J. Geils Band had enjoyed a lengthy career as a seasoned Boston-area bar band before the rise of MTV
helped inspire a tremendously successful reinvention just in time for the '80s. Although the six-member ensemble had reached substantial blues rock
, classic rock
and arena rock
audiences throughout the '70s, the band truly became huge only when the increasingly pop-oriented songwriting of Wolf and Justman combined with the heavy use of synthesizers to find a niche within the fledgling new wave
sound of the period. Ultimately, the new decade's version of J. Geils Band retained many of its roots rock
qualities even as it displayed commercially viable versatility. Ultimately, though, the new sound was certainly different but felt organic and not particularly cynical in nature.
J. Geils Band came together initially at a time when psychedelic rock
was at its peak of popularity and influence throughout the U.S. However, this band embraced simplicity as well as the raw power and R&B
swagger of the early Rolling Stones
rather than the flower-power grooviness pursued by many contemporary West Coast bands. In short, the sextet was a bar band through and through, focusing at first on largely acoustic arrangements featuring the harmonica
playing of Magic Dick. The band's music - and especially its live performances - gained plenty of notoriety during the '70s, even scoring a few hits like "Give It to Me"
and "Must of Got Lost."
However, major stardom proved continuously elusive until the group adjusted its course slightly to highlight the rising pop sensibilities of band songwriters Justman and Wolf.
During a successful '70s run as a popular stadium live act, the band had made only modest dents as pop hitmakers. 1973's Bloodshot
reached the Top 10 on Billboard's album chart, but only 1974's "Must of Got Lost" came close to registering as a genuine pop hit, falling just short of the Top 10 as a single. That situation didn't immediately change with the turn of the decade, but 1980's Love Stinks
did show signs of the band's transition into the emerging video age. In fact, the title track and - especially - the sparkling single "Just Can't Wait"
demonstrated that the group's core sound had a chance to find a niche within the rootsy strain of what was then a very eclectic new wave scene. Still, no one expected what the next two years held in store for this distinctly blue-collar band.
'Freeze-Frame' Captures Pop Stardom:
The fall 1981 release of Freeze-Frame
happened to coincide almost perfectly with the launch of MTV, which created immediate demand for music videos and bands that could be charismatic on the small screen. Luckily, Justman had just the right song in the brilliantly bouncy "Centerfold,"
which not only became J. Geils Band's first and only top pop hit but also introduced one of the defining music videos
of the young decade. As a result, the group became ubiquitous that fall on radio and TV, setting the stage for another equally iconic Top 5 pop hit in the keyboard-dominated "Freeze-Frame."
Ultimately, this massive success bled deep into 1982, but the sudden spotlight did have a considerable price.
Break-Up & Final Album's Failure:
In the course of creating Freeze-Frame
, Justman's influence and control had grown to see him not only take the production helm (which he had done before) but also collaborate less often with Wolf on songwriting. This could have led to tensions between the two main creative forces in the group, and by 1983 Wolf had exited the band - soon to embark on a solo career. That left Justman and the remaining four members to conceive and record 1984's You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd
. But without Wolf as frontman and lead singer, the record went nowhere commercially and lacked the dynamism that had made Freeze-Frame
such a hit. Soon after that, the band folded, its superstardom over almost before it got started.
J. Geils Band Reunions & Ongoing Legacy:
Despite nearly three full decades without new music from any version of the group, J. Geils Band remains a major American rock artist with plenty of fans and admirers. During the past decade, the original lineup has reunited several times for both one-off performances and occasional short-term tours. Though Bladd has rarely played drums during such reunion stints, guitarist and nominal leader Geils remained active as a band member until 2012, when he did not participate in a tour and subsequently filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates for continuing without him while still using the J. Geils Band name. It remains to be seen whether or not that rift will persist long enough to mar any possible Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
induction that could be in the previously nominated group's very near future.