J. Geils, born John Warren Geils Jr., was found dead in his home during a routine wellness check on Tuesday. He was most famously known for his role as lead guitarist and singer of the J. Geils Band, a premiere rock band during the 70s and early 80s.
For the past 35 years, John made his home in Groton, Massachusetts. He moved there in 1982 with his then-wife, Kristine Geils. Together, they were looking for somewhere to get away from the spotlight, and a horse farm was just the change the couple was looking for. Even though the J. Geils Band had a reputation as a hard-partying rock group, J. Geils and Kristine were content to live quietly and stay out of the spotlight.
Kristine and John Geils
Kristine Geils, or Kris, as she prefers to be called, and John were married in a private ceremony in 1971, just a year after the J. Geils Band was signed to Atlantic Records in 1970. When they made the move to Groton, Kris recalls that the police chief of Groton called the police chief of Carlisle to ask what type of trouble he could expect from these “damn rock and roll people” who were moving into his town.
The answer, as Kris recalls, tells a lot about what sort of person John Geils was.
“The Carlisle chief apparently responded that if all the constituents were like the Geilses, he would not have a job.”
J. Geils was on the road a lot, and for the first 13 years of their marriage, between 1971 and 1984, he estimated that he was on a plane every three days. For her part, Kris had her friends and the family of the other band members and was content to work with dogs and horses on their farm. Still, the fame of her husband’s band wore on her.
In an interview in 2004 with The Boston Globe, she said, “I used to say to Jay that I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have been someone really famous, like Elizabeth Taylor, because at times, I felt that I couldn’t even walk around my own house in my nightgown.”
“It was the fans that made him a success that also made it difficult at times. Overall, though, we led a very normal life in Groton.”
The pair divorced in 1999 after nearly 30 years of marriage, but still remained friends, even sharing a post office box.
J. Geils, The Musician
J. Geils was a Southside-style slide guitarist who was born into a family of blues lovers. He studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but he always had one eye on music. While at Worcester, he formed Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels with Danny Klein, and Richard Salwitz. In 1968, however, they started to focus on a more current sound, adding an electric guitar and bass to the band. The band reformed with Peter Wolf, Stephen Jo Bladd, and Seth Justman as the J. Geils Blues Band.
As they grew more popular in the Boston area, they gained the attention of labels and eventually signed with Atlantic. During this time, they dropped the Blues from their name and simply became the J. Geils Band.
After their breakup for undisclosed reasons in 1985, the band wouldn’t reunite again until 1999. That year saw them garner their first nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and brought them back to the discussion boards again. The J. Geils Band reunited for a 13-show tour of the East Coast, with Sim Cain filling in as a drummer for Bladd.
In 2012, the J. Geils Band toured without their namesake at the helm. Geils filed an unsuccessful lawsuit for use of the trademark unlawfully. After the lawsuit was dismissed, John quit the band.
Peter Wolf took to social media to mourn the loss of his friend.
Thinking of all the times we kicked it high and rocked down the house! R.I.P. Jay Geils pic.twitter.com/r3v50eQZ2w
— Peter Wolf (@PeterWolf_Woofa) April 12, 2017
Information about a memorial service is not available at this time.
[Featured Image by Jodi Hilton/Getty Images]