Today is the 56th birthday of Boston-born Stephen Jo Bladd, drummer for the J.
Geils Band, the blues/rock/pop/soul band that first hit the airwaves in the early
’70s. The roots of the band were in the trio of Jerome Geils (guitar), Magic Dick
(harp) and Danny Klein (bass), who played acoustic blues together in the ’60s.
Bladd and singer Peter Wolf, who were members of the Boston band the
Hallucinations, joined the trio in 1967 and turned them onto electric music.
Bladd and Wolf also infused the group with their penchant for doo-wop and
rhythm & blues, and the J. Geils Band was soon heading in a new musical
Their tough, greaser image and interest in soul music contrasted with many of
the popular psychedelic-rock groups of the period. Organist Seth Justman
joined J. Geils in 1968 and they began to play steadily and attract a following
along the East Coast. The band came to the attention of Atlantic Records,
which released their eponymous debut album, a particular favorite of Rolling
Stone magazine, in 1971.
Later that year, the J. Geils Band had a pop hit with “Looking for a Love,” from
their The Morning After album. In 1973, Bloodshot made the top
10, thanks to the FM radio favorite “Give It to Me.” J. Geils nearly made the top
10 singles chart with 1974′s “Must of Got Lost,” from Nightmares. Though
the band drew large crowds to its live shows, it failed to produce any major hit
singles or albums during the rest of the ’70s.
Switching to EMI, the J. Geils Band released Sanctuary, which reached
gold status, in 1978. The title track to 1980′s Love Stinks was a rock
radio hit which paved the way for their commercial breakthrough, Freeze-Frame (1981). “Centerfold,” the hit single from that album, topped the pop
singles chart for six weeks and spawned a heavy-rotation MTV video which
featured Wolf lusting after a co-ed. The title track was also a top 5 smash and
the album hit #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
But at the peak of the band’s popularity, Wolf and Justman (who wrote many of
their hits) couldn’t agree on anything. Wolf left J. Geils in 1983, during the
recording of Freeze-Frame‘s follow-up, primarily because the band
wouldn’t record some material he wrote with outsiders. The band soldiered on
with Justman singing lead, while Wolf enjoyed a big hit with his 1984 solo
debut, Lights Out. But when their first album without Wolf flopped badly,
the J. Geils Band disbanded in 1985.
Wolf has continued with a sporadic solo career, while Geils and Magic Dick
Bluestime, but the rest of the band, including Bladd, has dropped out of sight.
Other birthdays: Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), 56.