Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jeff Healey

The world lost an amazing guitarist this past week in Jeff Healey. The following is a press release from the NY Times, followed by a show of him and his band from 1990.

"Jeff Healey, a Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter whose band sold millions of blues-rock records and who also pursued a passion for old-time jazz, playing the trumpet and clarinet, died on Sunday in Toronto. He was 41.

He died of lung cancer, his publicists said.

Mr. Healey, who was blind, played his guitar with the instrument flat on his lap, resulting in what Guitar Player magazine called “astoundingly fluid bends and vibrato.” He blended jazz, rock and the blues.

Mr. Healey’s greatest success came in the late 1980s, when his band recorded the album “See the Light.” It reached platinum status in the United States by selling more than one million copies and eventually two million worldwide. A single from that album, “Angel Eyes,” was the Jeff Healey Band’s only Top 40 hit, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1989.

The same year the band performed the soundtrack for “Road House,” a movie starring actor Patrick Swayze. The band also had speaking parts. Soon the group was big enough to be booked in stadiums.

Mr. Healey also played the trumpet and clarinet in his own traditional jazz band, the Jazz Wizards. He collected as many as 30,000 old-time jazz records, mainly those on 78 r.p.m., which he played as the host of an hour-long radio show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr. Healey, son of a firefighter, was born and raised near Toronto. He lost his sight to eye cancer when he was a year old and was given his first guitar two years later. At a school for the blind, he was shown how to play the guitar the usual way but found it felt more comfortable on his lap.

At a Toronto-area high school he played the guitar and trumpet in school bands. His early guitar inspirations were country stylists like Chet Atkins, but he moved on to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King, according to the reference work Contemporary Musicians. He studied music theory on his own.

He formed the Jeff Healey Band in 1985, with the drummer Tom Stephen and the bassist Joe Rockman. The trio gave as many as 300 concerts a year for about two years before signing with Arista Records in 1988. Their second album for the label (after “See the Light”) was “Hell to Pay,” which featured guest artists including George Harrison.

As the group’s popularity grew, so did their concert venues. Jon Pareles, writing in The New York Times in 1989, described the band’s music as “showy, arena-style blues rock,” although he praised Mr. Healey’s technique.

In 1990, a reader poll in Guitar Player magazine named Mr. Healey the best blues guitarist and best new talent.

Mr. Healey is survived by his wife, Christie; his daughter, Rachel; and his son, Derek.

By 2002, Mr. Healey had opened a music club named after himself in Toronto; he later closed it to open a larger one. In 2003, he started his jazz band.

He made a total of 10 albums, including both jazz and blues-rock; it would be hard to guess that some of the albums were by the same artist. In January 2007, Guitar Player said, “Jeff Healey may be the only cat around who can play the prewar jazz of Louis Armstrong on the trumpet, and the heavy electric blues-rock of ZZ Top on the guitar.”



Jeff Healey Band
Hammersmith Odeon
London, U.K.
Sept. 24, 1990


01. My Little Girl
02. Blue Jean Blues
03. Confidence Man
04. I Think I Love You Too Much
05. How Long Can A Man Be Strong?
06. I Can't Get My Hands On You
07. Full Circle
08. Angel Eyes
09. All Along The Watchtower



Jeff Healey.com *** Myspace *** CD's ***eMusic *** Hype Machine

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