Everyone’s blood may be running a bit cold at the moment, but four members of the J. Geils Band have every intention of touring this year despite a lawsuit by guitarist John “J.” Geils claiming they can’t use the group name.
Current band manager John Baruck tells Billboard that the group — which includes founding members Peter Wolf, Seth Justman, Magic Dick Salwitz and Danny Klein — “is going out. It’s the J. Geils Band playing the J. Geils hits with Peter Wolf out there in front dancing. This is all clear-cut. We’re not stopping because of John Geils’ allegations.” The tour launches with a nine-date northeast run on August 25 at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, and a second leg is planned after Thanksgiving; Wolf has already posted December dates in Upper Darby, Pa., and Detroit.
The group, minus Geils, is also slated to appear in the upcoming Adam Sandler film “Grown Ups 2,” which is slated to open in July of 2013.
Things turned ugly after the tour was announced in mid-July. The group, which began performing again in 1999 after disbanding in 1985, explained that Geils would not be part of the tour “due to an ongoing legal dispute” over the guitarist’s claim to the band name, which it said “has hindered a working relationship” between the parties. Geils filed for a trademark on the J. Geils Band name in 2008 — claiming he formed the group in 1967, with the other members joining subsequently — and received it the following year. He informed the group of his move in November of 2011, according to Baruck. “In doing this, to me (Geils) was making an announcement that he wasn’t going to be playing with the band anymore,” Baruck explains. “How do you have one guy saying ‘I own this trademark. I just made myself leader of the band, and you can’t go anything without paying me or getting permission from me, and I’m going to control the merchandising.’ I can’t imagine that guy playing guitar with the rest of them and going out and having fun. I talked to the band about it, and they said, ‘You’re right. We can’t work with him. Let’s replace him (with Duke Levine, who’s been the group’s second guitarist for the past couple of tours) and go out and work.”
Holding Geils to a 1982 agreement that limits his own ability to use the J. Geils designation outside of the group — which the guitarist claims he signed under duress and without proper advice of counsel — the band members put in motion a challenge to Geils’ trademark claim. That led to the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Boston by Geils and Francesca Records, the label he co-owns, alleging “trademark infringement and deceptive business practices.”
Chuck Mead, Geils’ attorney, says the guitarist “wants the recognition that it’s his name, that he has the right to perform under his name. They don’t own the J. Geils Band name; if they want to perform as Peter Wolf or as ‘formerly of the J. Geils Band,’ much the same as ‘Phil Collins, formerly of Genesis,’ that’s fine. Go off on your merry way and accurately represent to the public who’s going to be performing at these venues — not the J. Geils Band, but Peter Wolf, Seth Justman and whoever else is formerly of the J. Geils Band.” Mead adds that Geils, who has performed his own shows separately from the band, “wants to perform as J. Geils. He has never gone out and tried to say HE’S the J. Geils Band, ever.”
Baruck, meanwhile, says “it was always a struggle to get J. into the fold” for the group’s reunion concerts, including tours in 2006, 2009 and 2010 — the latter of which included a show with fellow Boston rockers Aerosmith at the city’s Fenway Park. “Every time there was a tour I put together, J. was reluctant to do it. I would always have to convince him. He doesn’t like the music, says he doesn’t like playing rock ‘n’ roll anymore.”
Baruck says the group’s camp has not yet been served with the lawsuit, and Geils has not asked for injunctive relief to prevent the troupe from playing under the J. Geils Band name. Mead says he’s “hoping reasonable heads will prevail” and that the issue will be settled out of court, though he adds that “Mr. Geils is not prepared to accept the idea that he can’t be J. Geils. Hopefully creative minds can come up with a solution.”