Defying all odds, interview with Peter Wolf
November 16, 2023 by Likewolf
In an unlikely twist, multi-instrumentalist Likewolf embarked on an audacious mission to meet legendary singer Peter Wolf in the early '90s. Driven by an unyielding passion for music and a profound admiration for Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band, he embarked on a daring quest to secure an interview with the legendary frontman. Despite initial rejection by Peter Wolf's management, Likewolf's unwavering determination led to an extraordinary one-on-one encounter with the rock icon.
From The J.Geils Band to Solo Success
Peter Wolf's magnetic charisma and deep knowledge of music intertwined seamlessly, transcending the boundaries of a conventional interview.
A meeting with legendary singer Peter Wolf
Likewolf was aware of Peter Wolf's fascination with German Expressionist painters and pretended to want to talk about art with the enigmatic singer. His sneaky plan worked, and he secured a coveted 30-minute interview appointment.
Accompanied by Rolling Stone photographer R.J. Capac, Likewolf traveled from New York to Boston, where adventure awaited him.
As the clock ticked away during the scheduled interview, the management grew eager to wrap things up. However, Peter Wolf had other ideas. He firmly declared his desire to prolong the conversation, recognizing the genuine connection that had formed between the two passionate music enthusiasts.
What followed was an evening full of surprises. The former J. Geils Band frontman generously invited Likewolf and his photographer for dinner in a Boston Lebanese restaurant. Strengthened, they then had drinks and discussed music and life in a local Irish pub.
The evening continued as Peter Wolf led them on a memorable expedition through Boston's vibrant clubbing nightlife.
We unveil the hidden depths of Peter Wolf's artistry and captivating story that occurred on that fateful time, exclusively on the Likewolf website.
Step back in time and experience the captivating encounter with a soul-mate defined by his passion for music and the unconstrained spirit of rock 'n' roll.
Peter Wolf's Rock'n Roll Journey
Led by the dynamic Peter Wolf, the J.Geils Band became famous for their electrifying live performances and a captivating blend of rock, blues, and R&B influences.
Peter Wolf explained that his music is all about embracing the rebellious spirit of rock'n roll. He reflected on the importance of radio in his upbringing during the 1950s, as it played a crucial role in shaping his musical taste and providing him with the inspiration to pursue a career in music
Wolf emphasised that rock music has always been a vital and exhilarating part of him, both as a performer and as a passionate listener.
Growing up on the streets of the Bronx during the late 1950s, Peter Wolf experienced the birth of rock'n roll and witnessed its transformative power.
His older sister, who was a dancer, played a significant role in sparking his interest in music and arts.
As a young artist, he started off as a painter, studying at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. However, fate had a different plan for him. One night, while hanging out with friends, Wolf took the stage and discovered his true calling as a Rock'n Roll Singer.
Wolf's music embodies the spirit of rock'n roll, which he believes is all about letting loose and embracing one's true self. Reflecting on his early encounters with blues legends Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, he emphasised the importance of expressing oneself freely through music.
He considered the phrase "if it's in you, it's got to come out," a line by John Lee Hooker, to be his guiding principle. Rock'n roll, in its purest form, provided an avenue for him to let his innermost feelings and emotions come to the forefront.
Rock and Roll in the Eisenhower Era
When I was growing up in the Bronx, New York, there was a distinct lack of wisdom during the 50s before the 60s ushered in a new era.
The music that surrounded us was reminiscent of syrupy tunes by artists like Patty Page, the Ames Brothers, and the Mills Brothers—songs you'd find on K-Tel records.
It was all about that feeling of Frank Sinatra standing on the corner, watching all the girls.
Everything felt safe and secure, typical of the Eisenhower years and the beginning of suburbia. The American dream back then was to buy a house, own two cars if you were lucky, and maybe join a country club.
Life seemed grand, and the music reflected that sentiment.
Soul Ignited: The Birth of Rock'n Roll
Despite the prevalent safe sound of the 1950s, there was a vibrant rhythm and blues scene happening behind the scenes. Black artists were making waves with their music.
If you turned the dial, there was a whole world of rhythm and blues awaiting your ears. The Clovers, the Drifters, and Joe Turner were among the artists who filled the airwaves.
I vividly remember the first record that ignited my soul, Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," followed by Elvis's "Mystery Train" and "Heartbreak Hotel." These songs made me go, "Wow, what is all this?"
Then there was Alan Freed, the legendary disc jockey from Cleveland, Ohio, who brought rock and roll to New York. I religiously tuned in to his show, and that's when I started discovering artists like Bo Diddley, Little Richard, and later, James Brown.
During my time in art school, there were certain musicians who had a significant impact on me, however, their commercial success didn't come until later in their careers.
My friends and I, who were huge James Brown fans, were in the minority. We would gather together and collect records, especially the obscure singles that didn't make it high on the charts.
We would search various record stores, hoping to find rare gems. One of the greatest moments was when I acquired a copy of James Brown Live at the Apollo Volume One That record truly changed my life.
I listened to it countless times, learning every note and inflection. When friends came over, we would go through the entire routine.
Some of us would act as the flames, while I took the microphone, imagining the audience's excitement and the screams of the crowd.
That record is one of the most thrilling live recordings, to this day, I highly recommend it to everybody.
James Brown's music has always had a profound impact, and I recall countless nights on tour with the J. Geils Band, feeling tired and drained, but finding solace and revitalization by listening to James Brown's "Live at the Apollo" on cassette. There's an indescribable energy in his music that surpasses any substance or drug.
Believing in Soul Music
Some people think I'm crazy, but those are mostly people who don't know me well. But I think everyone has a little bit of crazy in them, right? Some just show it more openly than others.
Defining soul music is a complex task. During the 60s, it transitioned from being known as rhythm and blues to soul music. For me, soul music was an apt term because it felt like it emanated from the church.
It was a genre deeply rooted in black culture, infused with the rich harmonies and gospel influences heard in choirs. When someone sings within a gospel structure, you can feel the presence of God in your soul.
Great preachers and gospel choirs exude a conviction that makes their message ring true.
When this essence of gospel music merged with popular music, especially with artists who came from the church, you could sense that they truly believed in what they were singing.
It wasn't just about making a hit; it was about pouring their soul into the music. That's what attracted me to the great soul records and the early days of rock and roll. Soul music, as it existed in the 60s, holds a special place in my heart
When you hear a great soul record, it is evident that the artists genuinely believed in what they were conveying.
Wilson Pickett singing about the search for love or James Brown pleading in "Please, Please, Please" brought home the gravity and power of their lyrics.
It wasn't just about producing a hit song; it was about conveying a genuine and truthful statement.
Ray Charles and James Brown were artists who had a significant impact on me and countless other musicians. Their influence reverberated across the music industry. Ray Charles had a distinctive vocal style, his record production was exceptional.
Those artists didn't merely create catchy tunes; they delivered a profound and authentic statement.
Looking back, soul music in the 60s still resonates today. Many of the artists from that era, like James Brown, Bobby Womack, Don Covay, and Solomon Burke, are still popular today.
What's fascinating about music today is that the sense of conviction is not limited to black music. It permeates a variety of different genres.
In those earlier days, some black artists were focused on creating pop records, but those who infused their style with conviction stood out.
Their voices and records carried a genuine power. When listening to an old James Brown record, you can still feel the impact.
At that time records were not produced with today's advanced technology, no stereo or 24 tracks. Many of these records were cut in just one or two takes, yet their strength remains timeless.
Artists like the Five Royals, who greatly influenced James Brown, created magnificent and unique records that cannot be replicated.
Genius of Soul Music
During an interview, Producer Jerry Wexler once made a bold statement about soul music. He firmly believed that there was Ray Charles and then everyone else. I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Ray Charles had a profound impact on me, Jerry, Herb Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun, who all worked at Atlantic Records.
He possessed a unique genius in constructing records. He influenced numerous rhythm and blues performers and left an indelible mark on the music landscape.
There was something truly magnificent about his vocal style and the way he crafted his songs.
As he evolved, he developed a highly gospel-infused style that incorporated gospel choirs.
Even in songs like "Hit the Road Jack," you could sense a closer connection to gospel in Ray Charles' music than in James Brown's. James, on the other hand, brought an elevated level of pageantry to his performances, surpassing nearly any other artist.
Iconic Performances and Rhythmic Innovations
As a performer, James Brown was in a league of his own. When it came to stage presence, only Elvis Presley could rival him.
Witnessing a James Brown show was akin to attending a grand sermon in a cathedral.
He transformed venues like the Boston Garden into hallowed spaces. James Brown embodied not only a great entertainer but rather a divine presence.
His influence on music was immense, much like Jimi Hendrix's impact on the guitar or Elvis Presley's influence on Rock'n Roll.
Unlike the casual interactions of many artists, Brown treated his shows as a grand spectacle, a captivating and almost religious experience for his audience. From his choreography to his costumes, every aspect was meticulously crafted to create an unforgettable show.
I still recall my first experience witnessing James Brown's reign at the Apollo in New York in 1962.
It left an indelible impression on me. Another memorable show took place in 1964 at the old Madison Square Garden.
The lineup was incredible. It featured the gospel group the Soul Sisters, followed by the Young Rascals, the Shangri-Las, Luke Christie with performing his hit "Lightning Strikes," Slim Harpo playing "Scratch My Back," and finally, the James Brown band with the Famous Flames and Bobby Bird.
James took the stage, and it was a monumental performance, particularly as "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" had recently become a hit.
The energy was electric, and witnessing James Brown's return was an awe-inspiring experience.
He pushed boundaries and incorporated gospel elements, making his music deeply soulful. James Brown, with his unparalleled stage presence, turned performances into transformative experiences.
Like I said, his shows transcended mere entertainment; they became spiritual encounters.
To this day, artists attempt to capture the essence of that pageantry, which is a testament to the everlasting impact of James Brown's soul music.
One of the most exhilarating live records in history is James Brown's "Live at the Apollo Volume One" from 1962. This album was a life-changing record for me. Brown's performance on this album evokes a sense of awe.
His legacy as a performer and his contributions to the music industry are immeasurable. His extraordinary stage presence, coupled with his groundbreaking techniques and rhythmic innovations, solidified him as an icon. From the grandeur of his shows to the raw emotion he conveyed
Trials and Triumphs of Soul Artists
When discussing great artists of that era, it becomes challenging to single out just a few. Ray Charles, James Brown and Otis Redding immediately come to mind, but there were countless other talented artists who left a lasting impression on me.
The music scene back then was vibrant, and even artists with just one hit or limited commercial success had a significant sway. I often frequented clubs where these artists would perform, especially the so-called chitlin circuits.
These performers had a genuine connection with their audience, there was a mutual belief and respect between them. However, it was disheartening to see how many of these talented soul artists, both black and white, were forgotten and marginalized by the music industry.
They had to turn to Europe and Japan for recognition and appreciation while struggling to survive in their own country.
James Brown's enduring success can be attributed to his determination, involvement in the business side of his career, and his demand for respect and authenticity in his work.
He experienced his fair share of challenges and experimentation, but he always managed to bounce back with something that put him back on top.
I remember the time when I had a close and friendly relationship with Muddy Waters. Whenever Muddy would come to Boston, he would stay with me, and we developed a strong bond.
One vivid memory I have is when we were playing with the J. Geils Band in Detroit at Cobo Hall, a massive venue with thousands of people.
After the show, I would take a taxi to a club on the other side of town and see Muddy Waters perform.
It was a disheartening experience for me because witnessing the stark contrast between his talent and the small club environment felt unpleasant and unfair.
It made me reflect on the hardships and struggles that many artists like Muddy had endured. Their stories and the challenges they faced, as James would say, were immense.
Artists like Bobby Bland, who performed on variety shows like Ed Sullivan's, had to navigate a difficult landscape. They would share the stage with pop singers who lacked vocal range and yet received more recognition, which must have been demoralizing.
This racial disparity in the music industry is a terrible aspect of our history, but acknowledging it is crucial to understanding the intensity of the music and the triumph of these artists
Lingering Discrimination in the Music Industry
Looking back at those times, it's important to acknowledge the discrimination that permeated the 1950s and 1960's.
The music industry often engaged in what was known as "cover records," where white artists like Bill Haley would copy the songs of black artists like Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll."
These covers were more likely to receive radio play and broader sales. Despite the challenges, many black artists persevered.
Rock and roll owes its existence to rhythm and blues and soul music. Although artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison made significant contributions, it's undeniable that rock and roll couldn't have existed without the influence of black music.
What stands out is the authenticity and conviction of the musicians who truly believed in their art. This credibility extended beyond black music.
The essence lies in the groove and the ability to make people move, as Duke Ellington aptly expressed.
Rocking the House Down
J. Geils Band are considered to be the best U.S. American Live Band
In the beginning we were considered sounding too black, which is a rather complimentary description of the J. Geils Band. The popular white radio stations had difficulties to play our music in the early days.
However, the concert audience didn't mind and so we became one of the hardest working live acts in the U.S.
We started out as a band playing small clubs, a lot of bars and places that don't exist anymore.
I do remember those days when I thought, man, if only we could get a record deal. That became one of the primary goals. The whole reason to get a record deal was to learn how to make good recordings.
And once we made good recordings to make music that would be meaningful and eventually get on stage and eventually play venues like the Fillmore.
"Give It To Me" was a song by us. One of the early rock and roll reggae songs. It got played a lot on the radio and was our first big break.
But along came the FCC, claiming that rock 'n' roll was corrupting America's youth. The FCC threatened to withdraw radio stations' licenses if they played songs that were too permissive. And so everyone suddenly stopped playing our song.
We became the bad boys from Boston. We enjoyed every minute of it.
Rock'n'roll is part of the great American heritage, and I certainly hope it remains that way. For me, rock'n'roll has always been a way of saying no, a way of rebelling.
You want me to wear a suit and tie? You want me to register for the military service? Hell no, no way.
Rock'n'roll was a way for me to say no. No, I'm not going to Vietnam. Rock'n'roll was a way to say, hey, man, I'm going to let my hair grow and resist this whole system. No, man, I don't want to be stuck at this boring desk job.
I want to get on stage, pick up the guitar and make people dance. That's always been my vision, my ultimate dream.
But don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy road. There were many setbacks and obstacles to overcome. But we never gave up.
We worked hard, rehearsing day and night, writing songs and constantly evolving. And slowly but surely things started to change.
Our first record deal was a turning point for us. Suddenly we had the opportunity to make our music accessible to a wider audience.
We had the chance to spread our message and touch people with our music. And that's what it's all about at the core - connecting people through music.
Despite the success and recognition, however, we never forget where we come from. We are still the same guys from the small clubs and bars who dreamed of playing on big stages. And we are infinitely grateful to our fans who have accompanied us on this path.
And as long as there are people who love and support my music, I will continue. I will continue to put my heart and soul into the music and hopefully continue to push the boundaries of rock'n'roll.
Because rock'n'roll is and always will be an expression of freedom and resistance. It is a voice for all those who are different, who rebel against the norms and pursue their dreams.
And as long as there is Rock'n'Roll, there will be people who are willing to stand up for their convictions and change the world with their music.
Sometimes I wonder what if the J. Geils Band had just started out today. Would we have gotten a record deal and be easily played on the radio?
I think there is a lot of exciting music coming from new groups. The current economy and technology are giving rock 'n' roll a new vitality.
Many bands are expressing interesting things. There are many groups that are approaching music in new creative directions.
I think that's what keeps me going, the love for the music and the enthusiasm of the fans. It's a special feeling when you stand on stage and see people singing and dancing along. It's a moment I will always remember.
There have been ups and downs in my career, but at the end of the day it's about believing in what you do and working hard for it.
It's not always easy, but if you follow your passion and believe in yourself, you can achieve a lot.
I am grateful for all the experiences I have had with the J. Geils Band.
We have shared so many incredible moments and written so many great songs. I can't imagine my life without music, and I'm glad I was able to share this passion with my bandmates.
Love Stinks, Music Rocks
As long as people love my music and I still enjoy playing it, I will continue. It's not just about the success, it's about the joy of making music and the connection I can establish with people through my music.
The J. Geils Band, led by frontman Peter Wolf, had a prolific discography spanning several decades. Their music showcased a unique fusion of rock, blues, R&B, and soul, earning them a dedicated fan base and critical acclaim. Here is an overview of their notable albums:
J. Geils Band 🥁 Albums
The J. Geils Band (1970)
The Morning After" (1971)
Full House (1972)
Ladies Invited (1973)
Nightmares...and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle (1974)
Blow your face out (1976)
Love Stinks (1980)
You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd (1984)
Bluesy Soul and Rock 'n Roll
The J. Geils Band's discography reflects their evolution as a band, incorporating various genres while maintaining their distinctive sound.
Their songs continue to resonate with fans, and their music remains influential in the rock and roll landscape.
The J. Geils Band was known for their energetic live performances and their ability to infuse blues and rock with a high level of intensity.
They played a pivotal role in popularizing blues-rock in the 1970s and became one of the genre's most influential acts.
Rocking the House Down
The band developed a unique sound characterized by Peter Wolf's soulful vocals, Magic Dick's virtuosic harmonica playing, and the tight and infectious grooves provided by the rhythm section.
Their blend of rock, R&B, and blues created a distinct sonic identity that set them apart from their peers.
The band's live shows were legendary, known for their high-energy and engaging performances. They created a sense of camaraderie with their audience, and their concerts became must-see events, showcasing their musicianship and stage presence.
The band's distinctive style and image played a crucial role in their cultural influence. From Peter Wolf's charismatic stage presence to the band's fashion choices, they embodied a unique blend of rock 'n' roll coolness and a touch of glam.
Their sense of style influenced fans and aspiring musicians alike, shaping the fashion trends of the time and leaving a lasting impression on popular culture.
J. Geils Band MTV Darlings
The J. Geils Band was among the pioneers of the music video era, creating visually engaging and memorable videos for their songs. Their music videos showcased their energetic performances, lively personalities, and playful sense of humor.
Songs like "Centerfold" and "Freeze-Frame" had iconic music videos that received heavy rotation on MTV, influencing the emerging art form of music videos and helping to popularize the band's image and music.
The J. Geils Band experienced a surge in popularity during the 1980s, particularly with the release of their album "Freeze-Frame" in 1981. This was a time when MTV and music videos were gaining prominence, and the band's catchy songs and charismatic performances captured the attention of a wide audience.
They became synonymous with the energetic and fun-loving spirit of the era, further contributing to their cultural impact.
Breaking up the J. Geils Band
Despite disbanding in the early 1980s, Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band have maintained a devoted fanbase that continues to celebrate their music.
Their songs remain popular on classic rock radio stations, and their albums continue to be cherished by fans old and new.
Their enduring fanbase is a testament to the lasting impact and timeless appeal of their music.
Peter Wolf's Solo Career
After parting ways with the J. Geils Band in 1983, Peter Wolf embarked on a successful solo career, showcasing his versatility as a singer, songwriter, and performer. Here's an overview of Peter Wolf's solo career:
Lights Out (1984)
Come as You Are (1987)
Up to No Good (1990)
Long Line (1996)
Fool's Parade (1998)
Midnight Souvenirs (2010)
Peter Wolf's solo career reflects his artistic growth and exploration of diverse musical genres. His distinctive voice, dynamic stage presence, and knack for storytelling continue to resonate with audiences around the world.
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