Variety reports that John Warrn Geils Jr., the eponymous guitarist of The J. Geils Band, has died. Best known for songs like “Centerfold,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Love Stinks,” Geils defied the label of a one-hit wonder with a hustling musical career that spanned decades of non-stop touring and recording, and a methodical approach to blending blues rhythms with New Wave sounds.
Originally founded by Geils—who was still in college, studying mechanical engineering—as a jazz and blues trio in 1964, The J. Geils Band added new performers throughout the 1960s, finally solidifying when organist Seth Justman joined in 1970. The Band spent the next ten years performing and recording more-or-less non-stop, slowly building radio play, a fanbase, and connections with groups like The Rolling Stones and Peter Frampton, who they played arenas with in the late ’70s. The band had a major hit in 1980 with “Love Stinks”—a favorite of film soundtracks for more than 30 years—before briefly launching into the stratosphere with “Centerfold,” off of 1982’s Freeze Frame.
Blending Justman’s New Wave-y organs with solid rock riffs (and a story that mixed old-fashioned nostalgia with an inviting layer of sleaze) the song was The J. Geils Band‘s only number one Billboard hit. (“Freeze Frame,” from the same album, came in at No. 4.) But the sudden success also spelled the band’s end; disagreeing over its musical direction, vocalist Peter Wolf left the group the following year, and The Band broke up in 1985.
Geils continued to play for the next 30 years, usually with some combination of his former bandmates. (He also capitalized on his love for high-performance automobiles, founding a racing company and even driving in a number of events.) His periodic reunions with the band ended in 2012, though, when he sued them for touring under his name without him.
Geils was found dead today in his Groton, Massachusetts home. He was 71.