By Damian Fanelli | Photo: Jodi Hilton/Getty Images
John Warren Geils Jr., lead guitarist and co-founder of the J. Geils Band, was found dead Tuesday (April 11) in his Groton, Massachusetts, home. He was 71.
Groton Police went to Geils’ home for a simple well-being check, but he was found to be unresponsive and was declared dead at the scene. Foul play wasn’t suspected, and preliminary investigations suggest Geils died of natural causes, according to police.
Peter Wolf, the J. Geils’ Band’s longtime vocalist, shared a brief message on his Facebook page: “Thinking of all the times we kicked it high and rocked down the house! R.I.P. Jay Geils.”
Although the J. Geils Band was a popular touring combo from the late Sixties through the Seventies, they didn’t make it big until the early Eighties, when they struck gold with “Love Stinks,” “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame.”
Geils was born in New York in 1946 and raised in New Jersey. Despite his obvious love of music, Geils’ first love was cars, a passion he inherited from his father. The band was founded in 1967 in Worcester, Massachusetts, while Geils was a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Other members included Wolf, Danny Klein, Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz, Stephen Jo Bladd and Seth Justman. They scored a few Top 40 singles in the early Seventies, including “Give It to Me” and their cover of “Lookin’ for a Love,” an early Sixties tune by the Valentinos.
“Must of Got Lost” hit Number 12 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 1975, and “Love Stinks” reached Number 38 in 1980. Then along came their Freeze Frame album (1981), which—finally—made stars out of the hard-working band. A single from the disc, “Centerfold,” charted at Number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in February 1982 and stayed there for six weeks. It also became an early MTV staple, along with the album’s catchy title track.
The J. Geils Band released 11 studio albums before breaking up in 1985; they reunited off and on over the decades. In 2012, Geils sued his bandmates for conspiring to go on tour without him and using the band’s trademarked name.
They were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the fourth time last year but weren’t selected.
“This is our fourth nomination, and going through that process, with its inherent disappointment, you’re not sure you want to take that ride again,” Wolf told Billboard at the time. “It’s great to be recognized, but it’s a drag to be disappointed. I hope that we make it in. That would be great.”
Geils released two albums with his band, Bluestime, in the Nineties and returned to his jazz roots on his more recent solo albums.