Why The J. Geils Band Went On Tour Without John Geils

via JGeilsBandVEVO / Youtube

Lawsuit and Tensions Arise as Former Guitarist Battles Bandmates for Rights

In 2012, the J. Geils Band embarked on a US tour, but one crucial element was missing—guitarist John Geils. What seemed like a routine reunion became the catalyst for a years-long bitter conflict between band members.

Formed in the 1960s by John Geils, Peter Wolf, Richard Salwitz, Stephen Bladd, Seth Justman, and Danny Klein, the J. Geils Band enjoyed a successful career with their original lineup. However, disputes and disagreements were not uncommon among them.

The first major conflict arose in 1983 when Peter Wolf decided to part ways with the band due to musical differences. While the other members wanted to incorporate pop-techno elements into their sound, Wolf opposed the shift, leading to his departure.

After Wolf’s exit, the J. Geils Band attempted to carry on without him. They released an album titled ‘You’re Getting’ Even While I’m Getting Odd,’ but it failed to resonate with audiences, ultimately leading to their disbandment in 1985.

Fortunately, the band put their differences aside and reunited for a 13-date tour in 1999, sparking a series of subsequent reunions. However, when plans for another comeback in 2012 surfaced, tensions resurfaced with the absence of John Geils.

Feeling betrayed by his former bandmates, Geils filed a lawsuit against Richard Salwitz, Danny Klein, Peter Wolf, and Seth Justman. In his legal claims, he alleged a conspiracy to exclude him from performing under the J. Geils Band name. Geils sought complete rights to the band’s name, a ban on the other members using it, and financial damages.

During the legal battle, the band members expressed their discomfort with Geils’ actions. In a 2012 interview with CBS affiliate 100.7 WZLX, Peter Wolf described the lawsuit as a deceptive move executed behind their backs, emphasizing that it was not the right way to handle disagreements among “band brothers.”

Charles Grimes, Geils’ lawyer, stated at the time, “Together, they’re the J. Geils Band, but separately they’re Mr. Wolf, Mr. Salwitz, Mr. Klein, and Mr. Justman. They do not have the right to take his name and use it and try to deny him the right to use his own name.”

In response, the band members referred to a 1982 agreement that Geils had allegedly signed, which limited his ability to use the J. Geils name outside of the group. Despite Geils’ contention that he signed the agreement under duress and without proper legal counsel, it provided a significant legal advantage to the remaining band members.

Ultimately, Geils’ lawsuit was unsuccessful. The court ruling left him disappointed with both the legal outcome and his former bandmates, leading to his permanent departure from the band and retirement from music. Geils passed away in 2017, while the band continued producing music under the J. Geils Band name until 2015.

The conflict surrounding the alleged conspiracy to exclude John Geils sheds light on the challenges and complexities that can arise within bands, particularly when personal differences clash with artistic pursuits. While the legal battle reached an unfortunate end, it serves as a reminder of the delicate dynamics that can impact the longevity and harmony of musical partnerships.