Norman Jeffrey “Jeff” Healey (March 25, 1966 – March 2, 2008) was a Canadian jazz and blues-rock vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter who attained musical and personal popularity, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. He hit Number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Angel Eyes” and reached the Top 10 in Canada with the songs “I Think I Love You Too Much” and “How Long Can a Man Be Strong”.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Healey was raised in the city’s west end. He was adopted as an infant; his adoptive father was a firefighter. When he was almost one year old, Healey lost his sight to retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eyes. His eyes had to be surgically removed, and he was given ocular prostheses.
Healey began playing guitar when he was three, developing his unique style of playing the instrument flat on his lap. At age 9 his musical talents were showcased in an interview on the TVOntario children’s programme Cucumber. When he was 15, Jeff Healey formed the band Blue Direction, a four-piece that primarily played bar-band cover tunes and featured bassist Jeremy Littler, drummer Graydon Chapman, and a schoolmate, Rob Quail on second guitar. This band played various local clubs in Toronto, including the Colonial Tavern.
Healey began hosting a jazz and blues show on radio station CIUT-FM where he became known for playing from his massive collection of vintage 78 rpm gramophone records.
Shortly thereafter he was introduced to two musicians, bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen, with whom he formed a trio, The Jeff Healey Band. This band made their first public appearance at the Birds Nest, located upstairs at Chicago’s Diner on Queen Street West in Toronto. They received a write-up in Toronto’s NOW magazine, and soon were playing almost nightly in local clubs, such as Grossman’s Tavern and the famed blues club Albert’s Hall (where Jeff Healey was discovered by guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins).
After being signed to Arista Records in 1988, the band released the album See the Light, which appeared on the RPM Top 100 chart in 1989. It featuring the hit single “Angel Eyes” and the song “Hideaway”, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. While the band was recording See the Light, they were also filming (and recording for the soundtrack of) the Patrick Swayze film Road House. Healey had numerous acting scenes in the movie with Swayze, as his band was the house cover band for the bar featured in the movie. In 1990, the band won the Juno Award for Canadian Entertainer of the Year. The albums Hell to Pay and Feel This gave Healey 10 charting singles in Canada between 1990 and 1994, including a cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which featured George Harrison and Jeff Lynne on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.
By the release of the 2000 album Get Me Some, Healey began to concentrate his talent in a different musical direction closer to his heart, the appreciation for another original American music form, jazz.
He went on to release three CDs of music of traditional American jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. He had been sitting in with these types of bands around Toronto since the beginning of his music career. Though known primarily as a guitarist, Healey also played trumpet during live performances. His main jazz group for touring and recording being Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards.
Healey was an avid record collector and amassed a collection of well over 30,000 78 rpm records. Starting in 1990 he hosted a radio program of very early jazz on CIUT at the University of Toronto with Colin Bray. Later he went national on CBC Radio’s program entitled My Kind of Jazz, in which he played records from his vast vintage jazz collection. He moved the show two years later to Jazz FM – CJRT; as a part of ongoing celebrations for what would have been Healey’s 50th birthday in 2016, the latter program began to air in repeats Wednesdays 9pm on jazz.fm.
For many years, Healey toured throughout North America and Europe and performed at his club, “Healey’s” on Bathurst Street in Toronto, where he played with his blues band on Thursday nights and also with his jazz group on Saturday afternoons. The club moved to a bigger location at 56 Blue Jays Way and was rechristened “Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse.” Though he had lent his name to the club and often played there, Jeff Healey did not own or manage the bar. (The name came from the 1989 film, Road House, in which Healey appeared.) At the time of his death, he had been planning to perform a series of shows in the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands with his other band, the “Jeff Healey Blues Band” (aka the “Healey’s House Band”) in April 2008.
Over the years, Healey toured and sat in with many well-known performers, including The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, BB King, ZZ Top, Steve Lukather, Eric Clapton and many more. In 2006, Healey appeared on Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan’s CD/DVD Gillan’s Inn.
Healey discovered and helped develop the careers of other musical artists, including Terra Hazelton and Amanda Marshall.
In early 2009, Healey’s album Mess of Blues won in The 8th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues Album.
In 2009, Healey was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame.
In June 2011, Woodford Park in Toronto was renamed Jeff Healey Park in his honour.
In 2014 Healey was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. In September 2016, Jeff Healey was inducted into the Mississauga Music Walk of Fame. In March 2016 the posthumous album Heal My Soul was released, followed by the companion album Holding On in December of the same year. Both records were compiled from unreleased recordings by Roger Costa. The 12 track Heal My Soul featured six covers and a number of collaborations with Marti Frederiksen, Arnold Lanni and Stevie Salas. The 15 track Holding On album contains ten live tracks recorded in 1999 at the Rockefeller Music Hall in Norway and five studio tracks.
On January 11, 2007, Healey underwent surgery to remove metastatic tissue from both lungs. In the previous 18 months, he had two sarcomas removed from his legs. On March 2, 2008, Healey died of sarcoma in his home town of Toronto at age 41. Healey’s death came a month before the release of Mess of Blues, which was his first rock/blues album in eight years.
Healey married Krista Miller in 1992; they had a daughter and were divorced in 1998. He married Cristie Hall in 2003 and had a son with her. (by wikipedia)
And here´s another pretty good bootleg, recorded live at the Pistoia Blues Festival Pistoia (Italy) – July 4, 1993.
Listen and you´know why Jeff Healey was one of the finest guitar player in the last century
A hell of a record ! And we hear fantastic background vocals, too !
Jeff Healey (guitar, vocals)
Joe Rockman (bass, background vocals)
Washington Savage (keyboards)
Tom Stephen (drums)
Mischke & Chouckoo
01. Evil Hand Here To Stay (Healey&Rockman/Stephen) 6.39
02. Announcment 0.39
03. Confidence Man (Hiatt) 3.37
04. It Could All Get Blown Away (Goldberg/Goffin) 5.26
05. Lost In Your Eyes (Petty)
06. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Harrison) 4.55
07. Heart Of An Angel (Holmes) 6.02
08. Angel Eyes (Hiatt/Koller) 6.04
09. Roadhouse Blues (Densmore/Krieger/Manzarek/Morrison) 5.43
10. See The Light (Healey)
11. Evil Blues (uncut edition) 1.00.42
Norman Jeffrey “Jeff” Healey (March 25, 1966 – March 2, 2008)