Peter Wolf, J. Geils Band plan a Detroit house party

Susan Whitall
The Detroit News

Peter Wolf is bringing a “house party supreme” end-of-the-summer bash to DTE Energy Music Theatre on Friday, and he’s clearly overjoyed.

But you can’t miss a bit of wistfulness in his voice.

“You never know when it’s going to be the last time,” Wolf said by phone from his Boston home. “We didn’t want to say this could be the last time, because bands that do that — I don’t know, I find that exploitative. It’s not positive.”

On the other hand ... “There’s an element this time of, ‘Let’s get out there before the summer fades away, and hit it one more time,’ ” Wolf said. “We were invited out to Pine Knob and a lot of the people and cast of characters were available, so we thought we’d rave it up for the summer — because who knows what the future might bring?”

After a long hiatus, when creative differences splintered the group in the 1980s, Wolf reunited with the J. Geils Band and have been on a circuit since 2009 of their two hometowns, Boston and Detroit, augmented by quick dashes to Geils-friendly cities on the East Coast. It’s a schedule that suits them, without having to launch a full-on tour.

The reunion has mostly held; the group has toured since 2012 without founding member and guitarist Geils. Along with Wolf, the group you’ll see in Clarkston will include original members Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz on harmonica, Danny Klein on bass, Seth Justman on organ, augmented by Duke Levine and Kevin Barry playing guitar and Tom Arey on drums.

In 2014 and early ’15, the Geils Band did more dates than usual, opening in several cities for Bob Seger, playing a compressed version of their show. This time, as headliners at DTE, they’ll play an extended set, including all the crowd pleasers such as “Give it To Me,” “House Party” and “Whammer Jammer.”

“We’ll be doing our house party supreme, getting back to the audiences we love, carrying on the house party,” Wolf said.

So how is his summer going?

“What summer?” the singer barked. Along with his Geils schedule, Wolf has a solo career percolating along, for which he does a more personal, idiosyncratic show. He’s been busy recording his latest solo album in Boston and New York. (It’ll be ready for release in late February or March.)

One of the songs he’ll include was co-written with R&B legend Don Covay, who died in January. He’d forgotten that he even written the song with Covay.

“I’ve always heard about singers sticking songs in a drawer, and I always wondered, ‘Who sticks a song in a drawer?’ ” Wolf said. “Well, one day I was cleaning out a drawer and I found a cassette and I put it on and I said, ‘Oh, man, I forgot that Don and I wrote this song.’

“The cassette is pretty good because it’s Don singing on it and talking, and I was such a huge fan of his. He influenced all my early songwriting, songs for the J. Geils Band like ‘Wait’ and ‘Make Up Your Mind’ and ‘On Borrowed Time’ — those early, original songs were all influenced by the song structure of Don Covay.”

Most people know Covay from songs like “Seesaw” or “Mercy, Mercy.” “Seesaw” was covered memorably by Aretha Franklin, who also had a hit with Covay’s “Chain of Fools.” The Rolling Stones did a version of “Mercy, Mercy.”

Wolf recorded Covay’s “I Stole Some Love” for a tribute album, and wrote about him after his death earlier this year, in a Feb. 25 Rolling Stone story.

Jimi Hendrix played guitar on Covay’s “Mercy, Mercy,” Wolf observed, explaining how the song came about after Hendrix left the Isley Brothers band to play with Little Richard.

“Don was a protégé of Little Richard, they called him Pretty Boy. He was a valet with Little Richard for a time,” Wolf said. “So (Covay) got really close with Hendrix during that period when Hendrix was playing guitar with Richard.”

“Matter of fact,” Wolf continued, “Hendrix is playing on that famous Little Richard song ‘I Don’t Know What You Got (But You Sure Got Me), Part One and Two.’ It has Little Richard, Billy Preston on the organ and Hendrix on guitar. Covay is singing the high part in the background, like (Wolf sings, falsetto) ‘I don’t know what you got, but you got me.’ Ow, it’s too early in the morning to sing like that!”

Wolf was cutting the instrumental track for the long-lost Covay song last year, intending to record vocals for it later with R&B legend Bobby Womack, whom he loved as a fan and friend. (The Geils Band recorded “Lookin’ for a Love,” a song originally done by Womack and the Valentinos.)

“When I came out of the studio, Kenny White, who produced with me, said ‘You won’t believe this. I just got a flash on my cell phone that Bobby Womack passed.’ It was so eerie that we’d just finished the track.”

Wolf’s solo album will be followed by a tour that will “definitely” bring him to Detroit in March, he said.

For the Geils date, fans can expect the usual high-energy, age-defying Detroit-Geils love fest/house party including all the hits from the early ’70s into the ’80s, but also “some more obscure nuggets,” Wolf promises.

He’s especially happy about having former Mott the Hoople singer Ian Hunter and his Rant Band open. Hunter has had a long solo career, post-“All The Young Dudes.”

“A lot of people aren’t aware of it, but he’s been out there, putting out some interesting records, so I’m excited about him opening for us,” Wolf said.

J. Geils Band,

House Party Tour 2015

Special guest: Ian Hunter and the Rant Band

8 p.m. Friday

DTE Energy Music Theatre, 7774 Sashabaw, Clarkston.

Tickets: $29.50-$99.50, available at,, The Palace and DTE Energy Music Theatre Ticket Stores and all Ticketmaster locations.