John Warren Geils Jr., best known as the star and founding member of the 1980s rock group The J. Geils Band, has been found dead in his home in Groton, Massachusetts.
Groton Police Chief Donald Palma Jr. released a report Tuesday evening, confirming that the 71-year-old had died. Chief Palma explained that after attending to Geils’ home on Tuesday afternoon for a routine wellbeing check, officers found the musician unresponsive.
“At approximately 4 p.m., Groton Police responded to a home on Graniteville Road for a well-being check. Upon arrival to the house, police located a man who was unresponsive. He was declared dead at the scene… The Groton Police Department is investigating the death, as is standard procedure in all unattended deaths, however foul play is not suspected at this time.”
Geils initially formed The J. Geils Band under the name Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels while studying at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts. The original members included Danny “Dr. Funk” Klein as bassist and Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz playing harmonica with Geils on vocals and guitar. Following a name change, the band later added local musicians Stephen Jo Bladd as drummer, Peter Wolf as additional vocalist, and Seth Justman as an organist, gaining notoriety in the Boston area for their signature blues-rock sound and prominent use of harmonica.
The band was busy through the 1970s, maintaining a constant touring schedule that saw them open for such bands as The Allman Brothers and The Byrds.
The band gained commercial success in the 1980s, following a shift to a more mainstream sound in the release of their smash third album Freeze Frame. The album claimed the No. 1 spot on the charts for four weeks, while single “Centerfold” dominated the Billboard Top 100, sitting at No. 1 for six weeks straight.
At the height of their popularity in the 1980s, the band was opened for by such musical heavyweights as The Eagles, Billy Joel, ZZ Top and U2. Things began to fall apart after the release of Freeze Frame, with vocalist Wolf departing the band to pursue a solo career. Wolf did not appear on the band’s final album You’re Gettin’ Even While I’m Gettin’ Old, and the remaining members decided to split a year later in 1985. Following the split, Geils reunited with former band mate Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz to form the duo Bluestime, releasing two records during the 1990s.
After reuniting for a series of comeback tours in the 1990s and early 2000s, Geils quit the band and proceeded to sue his former band mates for their continued use of his name to promote an upcoming tour. In the lawsuit, filed at the Boston Superior Court, Geils alleged that the remaining members, Salwitz, Klein, Wolf, and Justman “planned and conspired” to exclude Geils from the tour, while continuing to use the band’s name.
Geils’ lawyer, Charles Grimes explained the claim.
“Together they’re the J. Geils Band, but separately they’re Mr. Wolf, Mr. Salwitz, Mr. Klein and Mr. Justman. They do not have the right to take his name and use it, and try to deny him the right to use his own name.”
Following reports of Geils’ death, fans and fellow musicians alike have been taking to social media to express their condolences. British band Foghat took to Twitter, sharing a live recording of the band.
Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Governor also spoke of his love for the band on Twitter.
Rest In Peace J Geils. You and your band mates gave me and many others tons of great times. https://t.co/pIbRyBVA8I— Charlie Baker (@CharlieBakerMA) April 12, 2017
Others took the opportunity to reminisce.
My blood runs cold. My memory has just been sold. My angel is the centerfold. Angel is the centerfold. RIP J Geils of #JGeilsband— Daryl Huggins (@Daryl_Huggins) April 12, 2017
Sad to hear J. Geils has passed.— The Flipside (@flipsideloftus) April 12, 2017
1. Peter Wolf was vocalist
2. J. Geils band best stuff rarely heard on radio.
Insanely great live band!
[Featured Image by John. W Ferguson/ Getty Images]