|Birth name||John Warren Geils Jr.|
February 20, 1946|
New York City, U.S.
|Died||April 11, 2017
Groton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Growing up in New York City, Geils became interested in jazz and blues. After moving to Massachusetts for his college education, he formed the J. Geils Blues Band while still a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After dropping the word "Blues" from their name, the band released their first album in 1970, performing soul and rhythm and blues-influenced rock music for most of the 1970s before turning to pop music in the 1980s. After the band broke up in 1985, Geils left regular performing to take up restoration and racing of automobiles, with occasional forays into music production. He continued to appear in reunion tours with the rest of his band sporadically during the 2000s and 2010s. He died of natural causes at the age of 71 on April 11, 2017, at his home in Groton, Massachusetts.
John Warren Geils Jr. was born on February 20, 1946 in New York City, and grew up in Morris Plains, New Jersey. He was of German ancestry. His father was an engineer at Bell Labs and a jazz fan.
From an early age, he heard his father's albums by Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, and was escorted by his father to a Louis Armstrong concert. He worked out Miles Davis music on trumpet and drums, and he listened to blues guitarists Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters on the radio. In 1964, he began attending Northeastern University and was a trumpeter in the marching band. When he was drawn to folk musicians in Boston, he left Northeastern for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he studied mechanical engineering.
Geils began playing jazz trumpet but eventually switched to blues guitar. He formed an acoustic blues trio, Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels, with bassist Danny Klein and harmonica player Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz, while studying mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the mid-1960s. They soon moved to Boston, where they added drummer Stephen Jo Bladd and singer Peter Wolf, who was a DJ on WBCN. In late 1965 their line-up consisted of vocalist and saxophone player Peter Kraemer, guitarists Terry MacNeil and William "Truckaway" Sievers, bassist Martin Beard (born 1947, London), and drummer Norman Mayell. He later formed the J. Geils Blues Band with Klein, Salwitz, Bladd, and Wolf, with Seth Justman becoming the last member before the band released its debut album in 1970.
Renamed "The J. Geils Band", the band released eleven albums between 1970 and 1985. Although they were influenced by soul music and rhythm and blues, their musical style was difficult to categorize. Their success was allegedly limited by being "too white for the black kids and too black for the whites". The band's sound moved toward pop and rock by the time the breakthrough album Love Stinks (EMI, 1980) came out. Their next album, Freeze Frame, produced the song "Centerfold", which sat at number one for six weeks, and the title track, which was a Billboard Top 10 hit.
In 2012 he filed a lawsuit against the other band members when they allegedly planned to tour without him while using the band's trademarked name. This prompted him to quit the group permanently.
Geils recorded two blues albums with Magic Dick during the 1990s, then formed a jazz trio with guitarists Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin. He released his first solo album, Jay Geils Plays Jazz!, in 2005.
In addition to passing on an interest in jazz, Geils's father took his son to auto races in Pennsylvania in the 1950s. Geils fell in love with Italian sports cars. He drove in five races a year during the early 1980s, at the peak of the J. Geils Band's popularity. He opened KTR Motorsports, an automobile restoration shop in Ayer, Massachusetts to service and repair vintage sports cars such as Ferrari and Maserati. He sold the shop in 1996, though he continued to use the shop and participate in the company.
In 1982, Geils moved to Groton, Massachusetts. The town honored him by proclaiming J. Geils Day on December 1, 2009. In September 2016, Geils was arrested and charged with drunk driving after allegedly rear-ending a car in Concord, Massachusetts.
As Jay Geils
- Bluestime with Magic Dick (Rounder, 1994)
- Little Car Blues with Magic Dick (Rounder, 1996)
- Jay Geils Plays Jazz! (Stony Plain, 2005)
- Jay Geils, Gerry Beaudoin and the Kings of Strings featuring Aaron Weinstein (Arbors, 2006)
- Toe Tappin' Jazz (North Star, 2009)
As New Guitar Summit
- New Guitar Summit (Stony Plain, 2004)
- New Guitar Summit: Live at the Stoneham Theatre (2004)
- Jazzthing II with Randy Bachman (2007)
- Shivers (Stony Plain, 2008)
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- "J. Geils | Credits". AllMusic. Archived from the original on April 12, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.