John Warren Geils Jr., the founding guitarist behind the ’70s and ’80s rock powerhouse J. Geils Band, died at his longtime home in Massachusetts on Tuesday. He was 71.
Donald Palma Jr., the chief of police in Groton, Mass., confirmed Geils’ death on Tuesday night, saying in a press release that an early investigation suggested Geils died of “natural causes” and that “foul play is not suspected at this time.”
Geils founded his eponymous band in 1967, when he attended the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. The band — with singer Peter Wolf — was known for its deft, bluesy guitar work. After touring with the Byrds and the Allman Brothers, the band achieved its breakout success in the ’70s and early ’80s with the release of hit singles such as “Must of Got Lost,” “Give It to Me” and “Love Stinks.”
“We were a rock, blues, R&B, rootsy band until we developed our own sound,” Wolf told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “(I)t’s always cool to rediscover the masters like Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson. I still feel like a student-pilgrim.”
But in 1982, its album “Freeze-Frame” was an even bigger smash on the strength of the hit single “Centerfold.” That track spent six weeks atop the pop charts in the U.S., with “Freeze-Frame” atop the album charts for four weeks. The band would go on to land 10 top-40 singles in its career.
The group recorded 11 studio albums before breaking up in 1985. Though it occasionally reunited, Geils broke with the band when it toured under his name without him. The group was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.