It looks as if the relationship between guitarist J. Geils and the band that bears his name is broken beyond repair.
Ten days after the J. Geils Band announced plans to tour without John Geils Jr. — better known to fans as J. — an attorney representing the guitarist has filed a lawsuit accusing his bandmates, Peter Wolf, Seth Justman, Magic Dick, and Danny Klein, of trademark infringement and deceptive business practices.
The 44-page suit filed Wednesday in US District Court in Boston claims that Geils owns the “J. Geils Band” trademark, and the band is “seeking to misappropriate and steal” the name from Geils by touring without him.
“Mr. Geils has this trademark and never transferred it to anybody,” said attorney Chuck Grimes, who represents Geils. “These guys performed in Mr. Geils’s band, but that doesn’t give them the right to grab the name.”
James Weinberger, the attorney for the other band members, said Wednesday he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
Fans of the band were more than a little confused last month when the band, whose hits include “Musta Got Lost” and “Freeze-Frame,” announced plans to tour without their namesake. In a statement, the band said the split was the result of an “ongoing legal dispute” between Geils and the other members over the rights to the name J. Geils Band.
Geils applied to the US Patent and Trademark Office for the “J. Geils Band” trademark in 2008, and was awarded it a year later. Weinberger said Geils sought the trademark without telling Wolf or the others.
“He did this and nobody knew about it,” Weinberger said. “That’s a pretty strong affront.”
The lawsuit lays out the long history of the J. Geils Band, beginning in 1967 or so, when Geils, Klein, and Magic Dick performed as the J. Geils Blues Band. Wolf and Justman, who would become the group’s principal songwriters, joined in 1969.
Over the years, however, even as the band became more popular (thanks to the song “Centerfold,” the “Freeze-Frame” LP reached No. 1 in 1981), Geils was restless and twice tried to quit the band, according to the lawsuit. In 1982, the suit claims, he was “forced under extreme pressure” to sign a document that prevented band members — or “shareholders” — from using “J. Geils Band” for a commercial purpose that didn’t involve the rest of the band.
“That raises some confusion,” Grimes acknowledged Wednesday. “But at the end of the day, the rights of Mr. Geils will be upheld over the rights of any other claimant. It’s his name. There’s nothing that would stop Wolf and Justman from billing themselves as ‘formerly of the J. Geils Band.’ That would be accurate.”