Danny Klein of J.Geils Band

By A.J. Wachtel
January 2010

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[Ed: This is the first installment of Wachteligence, where AJ Wachtel talks to Boston scene veterans about the past, present and future.]

Ace on Bass Danny Klein is right in the middle of a true musical anomaly. Like a melodious phoenix rising from its ashes, his former iconic group, The J.Geils Band, is back after a long absence and performing onstage again. What could be more legendary than that?

Thirty years ago the members were international stars who toured with the Rolling Stones, had hit after hit year after year and taught a generation of youth that being from Boston and being in an R&B band was the coolest thing in the world. With their great sound and mythic live show they played a big part in re-inventing the regional music scene and now, in a much more difficult environment, one can only hope their re-emergence after such a long time will again rejuvenate the circuit.

Special thanks to D.K. for calling me just after noon on Sunday after a rare Saturday night Geils gig-just like he said he would!

AJ Wachtel: How was the show last night?

Danny Klein: It was a great gig.

AJ: What kind of music does Danny Klein's Full House play? What are the band's musical influences and who's in the band?

DK: It started out just doing charity gigs, then I did a few shows with James Montgomery and friends and we did a few Geils songs. Then for the past eight years Full House is a celebration of Geils music. And if Geils plays more we may branch out a little, but we started at a time when The J.Geils Band wasn’t around. And the members are Dave Quintiliani, Stevie Gouette, Artie Eaton, Jim Taft, Rosy Rosenblatt, Jon Vanderpool and Dan Rabinovitz.

AJ: What's the difference between Full House and your last project, Stone Crazy?

DK: Well at the time, I had finished chef’s school and I was working in a restaurant in Fitchburg and I started playing around with Kenny Pino and we decided, “let's start a blues band”. We were doing a lot of Texas stuff cause of Kenny's involvement with Johnny Copeland. We also did Freddie King and Chicago Blues and Memphis Blues. The members were Ken and Babe Pino and Mark Hylander. We were an R&B band tinged with the blues. (laughs) Stone Crazy was a straight blues band and Full House is me doing Geils stuff. Stone Crazy has a CD you can still get online I think: J.Geils produced it and Seth played on it.

AJ: How has the blues scene changed locally and nationally in the past decade?

DK: In the '60s and '70s you were either in a blues band or an R&B band and they didn’t like each other. (laughs) Now, it’s the same thing and I like it that way. We played more interesting music than just shuffle/bass plastic blues stuff. After a while, I couldn’t drive two hours to just play four sets and make fifty bucks. It's great exposure but you can die from exposure! (laughs)

Nowadays, I really haven’t played much in the scene but it seems like there are fewer clubs and a lot of “good quality” bands. It's hard to get a gig. Everybody's competing for the same gigs. It’s hard to do it. And I think it’s the same way for all forms of music. With Geils it was a golden era with a lot of clubs to play. And there was more of a scene then. When we started the Geils band we were a blues band, just me, Jay, and Dick and about a thousand drummers...(laughs) There were a lot more places to play; The Unicorn, the Psychedelic Supermarket...But people tell me the blues scene is great in other parts of the country. And you'd think it would be good in Boston with all of its blues and folk history, you know?

And also you really can’t play original music anymore. There are a lot of tribute bands out there as opposed to having a vibrant original scene.

AJ: How is the musical direction of Full House different from The J.Geils Band?

DK: Full House does more obscure Geils material, like “Wait”. But we're not really a tribute band because we do all the basic arrangements but don’t copy guitar or harp solos note for note. We have the heart and soul of Geils but we're not a copy.

AJ: How's your role different in the two bands?

DK: In Full House I like to think I can tell them what to play. (laughs) It's nice. I get to decide what we do.

AJ: With the Geils band is it fair to say that, “you never really broke up and that it’s just been a long time between gigs”?

DK: It's like one show at a time now but we're enjoying it. We're still feeling it out; we've only done six, seven, or eight gigs so far. Dick plays around. Peter has a new CD coming out, Jay has his jazz thing. Every gig so far has sorta been like “our last gig” but we're waiting to see what's going around. Its not set in stone that we're gonna keep doing it but the chemistry is still there. And we have Duke Levine playing guitar for us and Marty Richards on drums. Marty also plays with Joe Perry’s band. Steven's not on drums anymore: he wanted to spend the time with his family rather than committing to rehearsals and gigs. And now it’s more like the older Geils because we don’t have any horns either.

AJ: You had two Geils gigs in January. Are you preparing for something? Is there any new music coming from the J.Geils Band?

DK: Seth has material, and Peter is a great writer. But we don’t have a label and we don’t want to do a new album yet. A lot of current songwriters aren’t putting out CDs because there's less money in CDs these days with all the free music online and all the pirating. The rock and pop scenes almost seem to be more geared to live show. You make more money doing live shows. So it really depends what happens down the road. We're open and we're flexible. We're old, but flexible. (laughs)

AJ: The Geils band is famous for going on tour and taking unsigned acts with them. In the '80s you took Jon Butcher and The Del Fuegos out. Can you see Geils going on the road and Full House opening for them?

DK: (laughs) I don’t think I can play for four hours. I need an oxygen tank. (laughs) Full House plays the same music. I don’t want to follow me, either! (laughs)

AJ: Where does Full House play locally? And what does the audience like best about your show?

DK: We play around a lot in the region. Our last gig was at the Chicken Bone in Framingham. We do charity gigs, we do Kowloon, and Chan's-its an ongoing thing and we have some casino gigs coming up. Like Lenny Bruce said: “If the pay is $500 a week at the Fairmont Hotel and its $550 at the Christian Science Reading Room, I'll be at the reading room.” Its nice playing the smaller rooms like the Chicken Bone where you're shoulder to shoulder with the guy who's spilling his drink on you. (laughs) And like I said, Full House is a Geils celebration and everything depends on if Geils keeps playing.

AJ: Can you give me a short list of the do's and dont's for the aspiring local blues artist?

DK: I just think you gotta be true to yourself. Love what you're doing and do it with passion. Don’t think, “How do I make money?” That's the ass-backwards way. If you're good at it you'll get an audience. And if you get an audience you'll get the work. And if you get the work you'll get the CD contract. And if you get the contract you'll get the money. Loving what you do and being true to yourself. That's what matters most. You cant think, “everyone knows we're not gonna make a ton of money on it.” Just have fun onstage, like the Geils thing. It's a labor of love.

AJ: In the current J.Geils setlist do you do any covers or just originals?

DK: We do “Nighttime”, “House Party” and “Looking For Love” and in that sense we do covers but it’s the same covers we've been doing for years. We do it our way. It’s our interpretation of it. “Homework” was a 45 that Jay found in Texas. Its just Otis Rush and a horn playing and we just took it and made it our own.

AJ: Any funny Full House or Geils stories?

DK: The only funny stories are at someone else's expense. (laughs) As for Geils stories, I have forty years of them! (laughs)

AJ: Tell me a life's lesson you've learned from playing the blues?

DK: Music is music. There are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music. If you like it, play it. You learn by doing. Everyone should have an outlet for their expression and I am thankful I've been able to do my art and have an audience to do it for.

Questions? Comments? Contact AJ at [email protected]



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