The J. Geils Band was one of Dirty Old Boston’s most widely acclaimed bands. Front man Peter Wolf’s vocal gymnastics and the taut musicianship of guitarist Jay Geils, bassist Danny Klein, keyboardist Seth Justman, drummer Stephen Bladd and Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz) on the ‘lickin’ stick’ were a force both onstage and on the radio. The band produced compelling original material and dug deeply into the Soul Music much like The Rolling Stones before them. They recorded covers of The Showstoppers Ain’t Nothin’ But A House Party, Otis Rush’s Homework, The Contours First I Look At The Purse, The Valentinos Looking For A Love, among others. White locals had not heard these songs before Geils. Radio programming in the 60s was highly segregated. The only black station in Boston was WILD, a daytime only AM station.
“Geils was the most exciting performing band around, and that includes The Stones,” said Steve Morse, a longtime rock critic for The Boston Globe. “People don’t always believe me when I say that, but I saw them countless times and was never disappointed. They were the best.”
The band was the end product of a band that came together almost by accident. An old rumor is that The Hallucinations formed at a party where some musicians were performing. The singer, imbibing heavily, was out of commission, precipitating a performance by partier Peter Wolf.
“That rumor is not true,” says original Hallucinations guitarist Paul Shapiro, today a painter in Santa Fe. “The Hallucinations did not exist at that party. Steven Bladd, Doug Slade and myself were playing at this party in a very informal way; we had never played together. Steven had just purchased a set of drums and was very new to drumming. Peter Wolf shows up and pulls out a harmonica and starts playing with us. I suggested that we form a band, a week later Doug recruits Joe Clark on bass and we’re off and running. Steven Bladd came up with the name The Hallucinations. A month later Barry Tashian (Barry & The Remains) hears us and exclaims that this is America’s answer to the Rolling Stones and gets us his manager and booking agent John Stucas of Music Productions where Don Law was a young employee.”
The Hallucinations branched and began taking trips performing around Greater Boston, notably in Lexington where one of the band members was said to have family. Lexington teens had long held dance parties in the basement of Follen Church featuring various local garage rock bands like The Pied Pipers, Mad Hatters and A Warm Puppy. Scoring The Hallucinations was a crowning achievement; the band arrived onstage with massive underground cred in 1967, to play a well turned out party.
The Hallucinations itself would go on to perform at Brighton’s legendary Crosstown Bus before morphing into the J. Geils Blues Band. The word ‘blues’ was eventually dropped and the band, sticking with the fast talking vocalist Peter Wolf, also a DJ on the fledgling WBCN, got signed to Atlantic Records in 1970. Fourteen albums later, this local legacy is something those who came up in Dirty Old Boston are rightfully proud of.
Jim Botticelli administers the popular Facebook and Instagram pages Dirty Old Boston. He is the author of Dirty Old Boston: Four Decades of a City In Transition available from local independent bookstores.