The J. Geils Band has always flown under the radar. The band established its reputation based on live shows before crossing over to the mainstream in the early '80s with rock hits like "Love Stinks," "Centerfold" and "Freeze-Frame." But it was lead singer Peter Wolf who brought the Jagger-like swagger with a funk n' soul backbone.
After decades apart, save for a 1999 reunion, the band has re-formed with new vigor and will perform at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury Tuesday. Wolf, 68, discusses growing up in New York, why he left in 1983 to go solo, and the absence of J. Geils.
What did you learn growing up in New York that remains with you today?
I went to high school in Harlem. I was 10 blocks away from the Apollo Theater, where I saw James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, the Drifters -- the list is so large. I learned from them how to work an audience.
What made you part with the band in 1983?
I didn't choose to be a solo artist. The band thought it would be best if I went my own way. In every band, there are usually two members that deal with the artistic vision and songwriting. When that relationship breaks down, there's trouble. There was a great artistic divide between Seth (Justman, keyboardist) and me. Now we are back together, and it's been a great honor that people still find our work relevant to their lives.
How did you feel when the band went on without you in 1984?
I was devastated. It was one of the worst blows -- my whole life was the band. When I was asked to go, it was very painful, and it took many years to come out of a daze. I couldn't believe it.
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How come the band is no longer playing with founder/guitarist J. Geils?
He became antagonistic toward the band, and his hostility made it impossible to continue. Plus he had disdain for the music we were doing. There's a certain kind of camaraderie to the music. You have to really commit to doing that part or it's going to hurt the whole band. His attitude prevented a harmonious brotherhood. When reached for comment, J. Geils said he doesn't agree with Mr. Wolf but he wishes his former bandmates well]
Does it feel strange touring under his name without him?
The name always felt like a personification of everyone. Kind of like Kool & the Gang or the Dave Clark Five -- it represents everybody. A lot of people think I'm J. Geils, but that's OK.
You are 68, yet you don't seem your age. What's your secret?
I drink lots of milk, honey and bourbon. I floss my teeth three times a day and get up in the morning blasting Chuck Berry!
WHO The J. Geils Band
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., Tuesday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury
INFO $59.50-$79.50, 800-745-3000, livenation.com