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J Geils Band
J Geils Band

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 20 - J. Geils Band - 1970

"Unfortunately, the sad truth of the Boston 60's rock n' roll scene behind the thick accumulated veneer of myths - is that it failed to produce one act that had the staying power and musical talent (with the exception of the J. Geils Band) ... they simply weren't together long enough to make more than a momentary impact."

Larry Azrin Boston R&R Historian
Killer Children 1979

The Eye of the Hurricane

The Woofuh Goofuh and the Master Blaster aka Charlie Daniels were spicing the Boston nights with lyrical barrages across the 'BCN airwaves. Anything from insults "you're so ugly" to arguments about which man was more irresistible to woman. The show was neatly wrapped up with Art Blake's Mosaic."

Peter's uncanny jive talk caused some grievous incidents. A telephone call from a distressed Wolf came into the station one night. A 'BCN listener was threatening to dismember Wolf for claiming to be The Goofuh. He knew that Wolf was black. The people back at the station fortunately convinced the gentleman that that was indeed Peter. Wolf's graveyard shift also provided interviews with Rod Stewart (then of Jeff Beck Group) Jeff Beck, Lou Reed (of University Rd.) and the late, great Muddy Waters.

Dead Air

As the J. Geils Band began picking up momentum at the Tea Party, The Unicorn and area colleges, Wolf found himself in a pick one or the other situation. On late night gigs, The Master Blaster and/or Freddie Blue aka Fred Lewis, a record distributor for Skippy White, would fill in on the air. Ray Riepen fired Wolf one too many times and he slipped out of the station after cueing up Aretha Franklin's Think When the song ended... dead air.

The Latest Editions

Wolf's pal, Freddie Blue was brought aboard the Geils ship in mid '68 and then came Seth Justman. Justman, was visiting B.U. via Washington D.C.; a Cambridge dj, pursuaded the band to audition his organ after attending several shows. His addition finished a lineup which would remain intact for 15 years, the longest an original lineup has lasted in the history of rock 'n' roll.

The Basement Tapes

Wolf & Co. began sending tapes to record companies featuring raps between Wolf and Blue like,

"Knock! Knock!"

"Who's There?"

When the door opens, the music kicks in. Atlantic Records, home of the blues, was their goal. Remember too, that people were down on Boston in the ashes of the Bosstown Sound, and Fred Lewis, an avid collector, owned most of the Atlantic catalogue. In the wake of the basement tape offense, The Big M aka Mario Medious was dispatched to the Tea Party for a Dr. John show. The opening act, The J. Geils Band, blew The Big M away. A quick signing, sans attorneys for the band, landed the band in Detroit with Jon Landau behind the board, fresh from his producing Detroit's MC5. Sometime later the project was aborted. Things just weren't clicking, and the band retreated to Boston to go back to the drawing board with Atlantic.

Product And Gamble

Atlantic Records, at the time, were molding the duet, Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro, into the producing team to rival Gamble & Huff. (Gamble & Huff were the producers responsible for the sound Hall & Oates took to the bank, The Philly Sound) Recorded in 17 hours and on the streets in 2 weeks, the self-titled debut finally was released in December of 1971. Over a blue Christmas, the release Lookin' For Love a 1962 hit for Bobby Womack - who also wrote it - inched its way up the Billboard Hot 100 and then broke the Top 40 at #39 where it peaked for two weeks. In January it sold 68,000 copies behind reviews comparing the band to the energy of the early Stones.

"The wonderful thing about the J. Geils Band was that they were an American band. They were into R&B and blues and their objective wasn't to steal it, it was to turn people on to it. And to turn them on to the great blues artists. It was honest energy... there were no pretensions"
- Fred Lewis
J. Geils former personal manager

Jonathan Edwards

Born July 28,1946 in the state of Minnesota, and immediately put up on the adoption block, only to be snatched up by his maternal grandmother. His first band, The Rivermen, based out of Ohio, saw an early break up when Edwards' college roommate convinced him he couldn't sing for shit. Edwards pursued painting.

The Byrds and an electric Dylan inspired young Jon to make another stab at music, St. James Doorknob. "I was the lead singer and I was bad" remembered Jon back when bad meant bad. He soon quit school and formed Headstone Circus, a blues country rock outfit. In 1967 in the peak of the Vietnam escalation, Edwards was detained by the draft board. The next day he packed up and left for the sanctuary of Boston.

The band soon landed some local gigs including a stint at Westport Connecticut's native son, Peter Casperson's The Catacombs. Peter was the sixteenth person to discover Jonathan Edwards and the first to turn him in a positive direction. To avoid the acid rock connotations of The Headstone Circus moniker, it was decided upon to change their name to the more fitting, Sugar Creek.

The Metromedia Corporation, wanting so badly to make a big move into the record world, riding high on the success of mental midget Bobby Sherman, picked up the Casperson produced demo tapes. Please Tell A Friend featured Jon Edwards, vocals/guitar and on album illustrations. Nothing broke nationally, but local success rolled along. But by the summer of 1970, Edwards had gone solo. Food was scarce, and Edwards resorted to a day gig at the gelatin factory where he penned the wonderful. Sunshine. The best part of a year was spent raising money through live performances and slipping in and out of lntermedia Studios (now Synchro Sound) with the profits, Casperson again produced. Phil Walden's Capricorn Records, under the wings of Atlantic Records, picked it up.

How Much Does it Cost, I'll Buy It

The November, 1971 release Jonathan Edwards featuring the single Sunshine (#4, 1971.) 12 weeks later found itself sitting on the Billboard Top 5. A milestone that would never be repeated in Edwards' career. Three albums later the publicity shy Edwards retreated to Nova Scotia to a 350-acre farm with his girlfriend, Kris.

From Stockbridge to Boston

"Glad to have you with us James and 'get well soon' say Apple over the Atlantic, for James is nowadays not well in New York, New York."
- Words from Apple 1970

Peter Asher had meanwhile followed Taylor back to the States in the wake of Apple's demise. He quickly moved James over to Warner Bros. In March of 1970, almost a year and a half after the Apple release and a motorcycle accident that left James with two broken hands, came Sweet Baby James (after James' brother Alex's son.) The LP featured the autobiographical, melancholy masterpiece Fire and Rain (#3,1970) three million units later, the trend had been set for a new genre of folk rock that would spawn Carole King's performing career, Linda Rondstadt, and Jackson Browne.

Norman Greenbaum

"God is a concept which measures our pain. I'll say it again" - John Lennon 1970 God

This Malden, Massachusetts boy spent the early 60's in and out of Boston University and Boston coffeehouses 'til a calling to the West Coast took him away in 1965. His Dr. West's Medicine Show, a psychedelic jug band, scored the 1966 #52 hit The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. The band split in 1967. In 1968, he embarked on a solo effort. With producer friend, songwriter Eric Jacobsen, Greenbaum put together the Spirit In The Sky, LP for Reprise Records. As the beloved counterculture began unravelling, Jesus freaks and street Christians appeared en masse. Webber and Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar, and Harrison's My Sweet Lord all chipped in to the gospel rock movement. After a string of unsuccessful cuts from The Spirit In The Sky LP, the title cut was released and peaked at #3 in March of 1970. The follow-ups did nothing, and Greenbaum took up goat breeding in the hills of Petaluma, California, never to be heard from again. BAAA!

This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
(c) Charles William White III

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