General Interest

J. Geils - Gone at age 71 - A Guitar Retrospective

The Unique Guitar Blog - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:37
J. Geils


J. Gelis was the leader of what was perhaps the preeminent band to come out of the Boston rock scene in the 1970’s.




The J. Geils Band

His group started up In Worcester, Massachusetts in 1967 and by 1970 the band had released their first album. By the 1980’s The J. Geils Band had a string of chart topping hits, including Centerfold, Love Stinks, Come Back, and Freeze-Frame.

While Peter Wolf stood out as the lead singer and front man, J.Geils was the guitarist and the name behind the band. .

You're Gettin' Even,
While I'm Gettin' Odd



The bands final album, Your Gettin’ Even, While I’m Gettin’ Odd, was released in 1984. The following year the band officially split.




1999 Reunion Concert



The group reunited for a reunion show in 1999. However in 2012 Geils filed a lawsuit against the band for conspiring to go on tour without him and unlawfully using the band’s trademarked name.


Bluestime - J. Geils and Magic Dick

After leaving the band Jay Geils remained a busy musician in the Boston area. In the mid 1990’s he put together a band called Bluestime along with The J. Geils Band harmonica player, “Magic” Dick Salwitz.


New Guitar Summit -
Geils,Beaudoin, and Robilard

By the next decade he remained active as a Jazz guitarist and recorded three solo albums. J. Geils was part of the New Guitar Summit along with Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin.


Geils - KTR Motorsport Shop
As a young man, Geils attended the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and studied mechanical engineering. He parlayed that knowledge into restoring, collecting, driving, and racing sports cars.

Geils even started the KTR European Motorports Shop in a garage in Carlisle, Massachusetts which serviced vintage Italian sports cars; especially Ferraris and Maseratis . He eventually sold the business in 1996. But he remained active in the vintage car community, attending shows and displaying some of his personal automobiles.

John Warren Geils was born February 20th, 1946.

J. Geils 1946 - 2017

He was found dead in his home on April 11th of this year when police responded to a well-being call. He died of natural causes at the age of 71.


Aside from collecting automobiles, Jay had a wonderful collection of vintage guitars and amplifiers.

Modified '58 Flying V




During the years with The J. Geils Band he could be seen playing a Les Paul, a Fender Stratocater, or even a Gibson Flying Vee.






J. Geils with Gibson ES-335
In later years he performed with a Gibson ES-335, or some of his hollow body archtop jazz guitars.

His taste in archtop guitars was influenced by his love and admiration for the guitarists that he believed changed the way we played guitar; Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, and B.B. King.


He sought out the instruments similar to the ones that they played.

1936 Gibson ES-150
For Charlie Christian this included purchasing a Gibson ES-150 with the single coil pickup unit that came to be known as "The Charlie Christian" pickup.

He owned this guitar as well as a Gibson ES-250 with a Charlie Christian pickup, just like the guitar Christian used later in his career. In the picture you can also see an ES-150 tenor guitar. These are paired with Gibson EH-150 and EH-185 amplifiers. He parted with the Gibson ES-250.

1939 Gibson L-5
Part of the Geils' collection includes a Gibson L-5 that was previously owned by jazz guitarist Howard Alden.

Stromberg Deluxe
Geils owned a few Stromberg instruments that were made in his beloved city of Boston. One of these came with a Charlie Christian pickup, although the pickup was not original to the guitar.




Geils Archtop Collection

In fact Geil's collection of archtop guitars represented each of the major builders of archtop guitars.



Geils Archtop Collection


These included a Gretsch Synchromatic, an Epiphone Emperor, a D'Angelico New Yorker, a Gibson Super 400, and the Stromberg archtops.


1950's Fender Deluxe Amplifier


Geils also collected amplifiers. He states that he wanted to get the sound similar to what his guitar triumvirate of Christian, Walker, and King used to get "their sound".


Jay even owned an early 1950's Fender TV panel Deluxe amp that was decorated with the same wording as the one that B. B. King had used as a young man.

Jay got his love of Jazz music from his father, who encouraged him and exposed him to well known Jazz acts by taking him concerts when Jay was a child. As a boy Geils played trumpet up until he was almost out of high school. At this point he took up the guitar.

Geils' '60's ES-345



In 1967 Geils had purchased a 1960’s Gibson ES-345 after seeing B.B. King in concert playing an ES-335 through a Fender Super Reverb.






Geils with 1956 Les Paul
Upon hearing Eric Clapton playing with Mike Bloomfield, Geil set his sights on acquiring  a Gibson Les Paul. He found a 1956 Les Paul Custom at a New York city music store. This guitar  had an alnico and a P-90 pickup. Shortly after purchasing this guitar the J. Geils Blues Band was formed and the group started out by playing local gigs.

J. Geils with 1959 Les Paul
It was at one of these events he ran into a kid that wanted to sell his 1959 Les Paul Standard. The guitar needed a standard tailpiece, and someone had tried to varnish it with a brush. Despite its appearance, Geils spotted a treasure and offered to swap his ‘56 Les Paul Custom for that guitar. He took the guitar to a tech that scraped away the varnish, found the requisite parts, and took the covers off of the PAF pickups. He played this guitar on most of the J. Geils Band Records.

J. Geils with a Fender Stratocaster


During that era he also purchased a Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster and a Martin D-28 for use in the studio.







Geils' '58 Flying V
He also found a 1958 Gibson Flying V and got it by trading a Gibson ES-350 and a National Steel guitar. He took the Flying V on the road to play in concerts.

During his band years he purchased a 1958 Gibson Cherry Les Paul and put it to use. Geils later sold this guitar for three times what he originally paid for the guitar. The 1959 Les Paul is still part of the Geils' collection.

Ampeg Gemin II



As for amplifiers, his first amp was an Ampeg Gemini  II.







Late 1950's Gibson GA-40


During the early J. Geils Band recordings, he played through a tweed Gibson GA-40.







Fender Bandmaster Reverb



On the road he played through a pair on Fender Bandmaster Reverb amps, each with a cabinet housing two Electro-Voice SRO’s.






MusicMan RD112-100


During the final days of the band he was using a 100 watt Music Man amplifier.






KTR European Motorsports
As stated before, after leaving the J. Geils Band, Jay immersed himself in restoring classic Italian sports cars  opening his own shop; the KTR European Motorsports Shop.

Eventually he came back to the guitar, but this time as a Jazz player.

J.Geils and Gerry Beaudoin

He ran into guitarist Gerry Beaudoin, a notable jazz player, who invited him to join him on one of his regular gigs. This lead to his career as a Jazz guitarist.




Geils at a jazz gig with ES-250

He utilized several of the guitars in his collection at his jazz gigs, including the Howard Alden L-5 and his Gibson ES-250. He usually played through different Fender combo amplifiers.




Jay with his classic Ferrari
Geils lead a most interesting life and his career revolved around the things he loved. He was a dear friend to one of my childhood friends, Tennie Komar. Jay certainly left his mark on the world. Though his first love was playing Jazz guitar, he will always be remembered by most for his work in the J. Geils Band.








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