Peter Wolf is once again “honored” to have the J. Geils Band nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But after four previous nominations he also feels it’s time for the group to get it’s due.
“People who think of J. Geils might think of ‘Centerfold’ or, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a party band. It’s good,'” Wolf told Billboard after news of the group’s fifth nomination was announced Thursday. “I think our mission was to share the roots, bring some awareness to people. Besides putting on hellafied shows and giving 110 percent night after night, we really tried very hard to give an awareness to artists that we worshiped and adored. At the end of the day we turned a lot of people on to John Lee Hooker. We turned a lot of people on to Smokey Robinson with ‘First I Look At The Purse’ and so many artists who would have gone unrecognized.”
Wolf also cites Geils tours with the likes of Junior Walker & the All Stars, Sam & Dave and Toots & The Maytals, it’s spot on the final shows at the Fillmore East and giving then-young acts such as Billy Joel, Eagles, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and U2 a chance to open arena shows. “I think it’s important for any musician-artist to be generous about the roots and the different things that got you doing what you do,” Wolf said.
The J. Geils Band was previously nominated for the Rock Hall classes of 2005, 2006, 2011 and 2017. Wolf, meanwhile, has been particularly active with the organization, inducting Jackie Wilson and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and taking part in tributes to Sam Cooke and Otis Blackwell. “I’m somebody who appreciates what the Hall of Fame does,” Wolf noted, but he denies any frustrations over not being inducted as of yet.
“One would like to see it happen,” Wolf said, “but it is what it is. It’s sort of out of your control, so you hope it happens. But there’s a lot of aspects that go on that are not in your control. So, yeah, it would be nice for it to happen, but what else can I say?”
This year’s nomination is the first since the April death of guitarist and namesake J. Geils, who left the group acrimoniously in 2012 and filed a lawsuit over the band name trademark. Nevertheless, Wolf called his passing “a sad development, very tragic. For a long time we continued without J. and did many a tour, but it would’ve been nice had he been around if by chance we got inducted for all those great, iconic years he was so much a part of it. There’s so many bands where members are missing or have died… I mean, wouldn’t it have been ice for George Harrison to be there to accept his award? That’s why it makes it even more meaningful.”
Wolf, who’s currently working on a new solo album, spent part of the summer opening shows for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour. He called Petty’s death “very tragic, very shocking,” but Wolf also got some insight during the tour that Petty was, in fact, battling health issues.
“He had very severe hip pain and he could hardly walk,” Wolf recalled. “I just admired how he persevered. He didn’t want to move the tour. He was going to address it after the tour, from what I know, and just seeing him struggling to get on stage, once he put the guitar on and he kicked in and did his shows I don’t think anybody had any idea how much pain he was in. But I knew he was having difficulty; I never thought something this dramatic would happen. That was a shock.”