Legendary musician J. Geils is dead at the age of 71.
Groton, Massachusetts police found Geils, born John Warren Geils, Jr. in his home on April 11th, according to local ABC affiliate WCVB. Station reporter Kathy Curran tweeted that the police responded to a call requesting them to check on his well being. Geils had been a resident of Groton for the past 35 years.
As of now, the cause of death is unknown, though police do not suspect any foul play was involved. Until an official cause is revealed, however, here is everything you need to know about J. Geils, his musical legacy with The J. Geils Band, and his death.
1. He Founded The J. Geils Band In 1967
Geils started his career as a musician during college, as he was the trumpeter for Northeastern University’s marching band. While residing in Massachusetts, however, he became infatuated with the area’s folk scene, and formed the J. Geils Band in 1967 as an acoustic trio with himself on lead vocals and guitar, Danny Klein (Dr. Funk) on bass guitar, and Richard Salwitz (Magic Dick) on harmonica. The group would shift towards more of a rock-influenced, electric guitar sound the following year, adding singer Peter Wolf and drummer Stephen Jo Bladd. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1970.
While serving as the opener for acts like BB King, The Byrds, and The Allman Brothers throughout the 1970s, The J. Geils Band would go on to find their greatest commercial success in the ’80s, with hit singles like “Love Stinks” (1980), “Freeze Frame” (1981), and “Centerfold” (1981), which spent a whopping six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. Unfortunately, according to AllMusic, the success led to tension and disagreements within the group, and The J. Geils Band disbanded in 1985. They would subsequently get back together in 1995, and the group continues to perform today with original members Klein, Salwitz, and Wolf.
2. He Had A Passion For Motorsports
While Geils will forever be remembered for his musical output, he actually had another creative passion in his life. “I really wanted to work on Italian cars,” he told Autoweek in 2012, “But I found out that I was pretty good at this rock music thing.” This became most evident after The J. Geils Band called it quits, as Geils competed in five auto races a year during the ’80s and began learning automobile restoration. Geils told Autoweek that his passion for racing was the result of going to the Giants Despair road races as a child: “I’m 10 years old in 1956,” he explained, “Dad, I said, what are those cool cars? I want that.”
Geils founded KTR Motorsports in Massachusetts, a shop dedicated to servicing vintage Ferraris, Maseratis, and other Italian cars. And while he would eventually sell the business to bike-racer Bob Gett in 1996, Geils continued to use the shop and participate until his death.
3. He Had A Net Worth Of $8 Million
It’s no secret that Geils and the rest of his bandmates saw incredible success in the 1980s. Their album Freeze Frame soared to number one on the Billboard 200, and remained there for four consecutive weeks. The album charted in the top 20 in several other countries as well, eventually reaching a certification of three times multi-platinum. Seeing as though Geils was the group’s founder and namesake inspiration, it’s safe to assume he saw a good amount of the proceeds.
At the time of his death, Geils had an estimated net worth of $8 million, according to Muzul. This included not only the fortune he made as part of The J. Geils Band, but the profit he made from selling KTR Motorsports. In the same interview with Autoweek, Geils also revealed that he had owned seven vintage Ferraris and four Alfas over the course of his life, though he says he only had one of each by 2012.
4. He Was Charged With An OUI In 2016
While Geils was relatively quiet in the final decades of his life, he did make headlines in 2016 when he was involved in a car crash in Concord. According to CBS Boston, Geils was charged with drunk driving and “failure to use care while stopping.” Police Chief Joseph O’Connor said that the officers on the scene had probable cause for the arrest, as Geils failed to perform a series of standardized filed sobriety tests.
Fortunately for Geils, who was 70 years old at the time, he was released following the arraigned court date with Concord District Judge Lynn Brendemuehl. According to the Lowell Sun, he was released on his own personal recognizance (no bail), under orders that he no longer consume alcohol without proper transportation and that he not drive without a license.
5. Groton Celebrate December 1st As ‘J. Geils Day’
Geils’ love for Groton, Massachusettes, has been well attested to, as it served as his home residence for over three decades. So much so, in fact that the town designated December 1st “J. Geils Day” in 2007. According to the Boston Herald, the town honored Geils with a special concert that saw him perform with his band the String Kings. Additionally, the “commonwealth of Massachusettes” celebrated the rock guitarist-turned-jazzman with an honorary degree for his contributions to the arts.
“The town’s been very good to him,” shared Gerry Beaudoin, who played guitar as part of String Kings,”A lot of people really love the J. Geils Band.” Jane Bouvier, who organized the celebration, also spoke on Geils’ importance to Groton, saying “Jay’s been around a long time, and he has three gold records and one platinum record, so its nice to have him living here. I’m certainly a fan.”