J. Geils, founding member and guitarist of The J. Geils Band, has passed away at the age of 71.
According to WCVB TV, Geils was found dead in his Groton, Massachusetts home on Tuesday. Rolling Stone spoke to local police, who believe the cause of death to be the result of natural causes. “At approximately 4 p.m., Groton Police responded to a home on Graniteville Road for a well-being check,” Groton Police said in a statement. “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.”
Born in New York City, Geils was introduced to jazz early on thanks to his father, who often spun records by Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. He also grew up listening to legendary blues guitarists Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters on the radio.
After attending Northeastern University, Geils teamed up with bassist Danny Klein (a.k.a. Dr. Funk), harmonica player Richard Salwitz (a.k.a. Magic Dick), singer Peter Wolf, and keyboardist Seth Justman to form The J. Geils Band in the mid-1960s in Worcester, MA. The group, frequent openers for the likes of BB King and The Allman Brothers, was heavily influenced by soul and R&B and released its self-titled debut album in 1970. The LP resulted in The J. Geils Band’s first single, a cover of The Contours hit “First I Look at the Purse”.
Over the next decade, Geils & co. evolved to incorporate more rock and pop into their sound, leading to even more success. In particular, the 1973 album Bloodshot and the following year’s Nightmares…and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle resulted in a handful of chart-toppers. The former LP managed to climb its way into the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 charts and included yet another solid single in “Give It To Me”; the latter, meanwhile, spawned the track “Must of Got Lost”, which scored as high as #12 on the Billboard Top 100. Tours with The Rolling Stones and Peter Frampton soon followed.
Other popular singles released by The J. Geils Band include Love Stinks’ 1980 title track and both Freeze Frame’s title track and “Centerfold” in 1981. A few years later, in 1985, the group called it quits, citing band member tensions. They would go on to reunite a number of times, such as in 2013, when the group performed a handful of songs as part of a benefit show for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Aside from his work in The J. Geils Band, Geil collaborated with fellow member Salwitz to form a project called Bluestime; they would issue two full-lengths together. Additionally, in the 2000s, Geils put out a pair of albums with the group New Guitar Summit as well as solo LPs under his own name.
As a long-time resident of Groton, the city honored him by officially proclaiming December 1st, 2009 as “J. Geils Day”.