The Bronx-born Wolf began his journey while attending The High School of Music & Art in Harlem and catching soul greats like Otis Redding and James Brown at the Apollo Theater. Wolf would leave New York behind when he accepted a scholarship to The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Even though he attended the school on their dime, Wolf still didn’t have a roof over his head.
“I didn’t have a place to stay, so I was sleeping on the river,” says Wolf. That was until Wolf bumped into another fledgling artist who had a room available. “That turned out to be David Lynch, the filmmaker.” Lynch, of course, is famous for his surrealist films and insanely popular, but short-lived, TV drama Twin Peaks. The two lived together for a year until Lynch left to make films and Wolf to start a band.
Wolf would go on to form The J. Geils Band and, after more than a decade of moderate success, struck gold with their 1981 album Freeze Frame, thanks in large part to the lead single “Centerfold.” Prior to the success of Freeze Frame, Wolf would try to capitalize on his friendships with Saturday Night Live cast members Bill Murray and John Belushi to secure a coveted spot as a performer on the popular late-night sketch show, but to no avail.
But in 1981, the tables turned.
“When ‘Centerfold’ hit, became #1, I got a phone call from Saturday Night Live saying, ‘We need ya. We’d love to have ya!'” recalls Wolf, who took the opportunity to stick it to Lorne Michaels. “I said, ‘Sorry! We’re going to book ourselves on The Joe Franklin Show!'”
“It was one of the most fun evenings we had,” adds Wolf.
Listen to Scott Shannon’s full interview with Peter Wolf.