However, what made him famous was also what held him back.
Born Norman Jeffrey Healey on March 25, 1966 in Toront, Ontario Canada, Healey was adopted and had retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eyes, which led to his blindness at eight months old.
Healey didn’t let his lack of eyesight hold him back. He started playing guitar at a very early age, and had an unorthodox playing style. Healey would lay the guitar on his lap and fret his chords upside down.
The budding muscian formed his first band at age 17 and also was a regular DJ on CIUT-FM where he played songs from his immense vintage vinyl collection. In his early 20s Healey met bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen and formed The Jeff Healey Band, which earned rave reviews all over the Toronto area.
Healey was discovered by guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins and soon after signed a record deal to Arista Records, which released the bands debut in 1988. See the Light spawned two hit singles – “Angel Eyes” and “Hideaway,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. This lead the band to the movies where they played the house band in the cult classic “Roadhouse.”
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.
The 90s were certainly good for The Jeff Healey Band, but when 2000 rolled around, the band released Get Me Some, which has just been rereleased on the Eagle Rock Entertainment label.
Despite growing tired of playing rock and blues music, it didn’t show on this album. The trio sounds tight as ever. Not much had changed in the decade since their first release as Healey and the boys kept to what got them where they were with their blues rock style.
The album opens with the driving rocker “Which One” and Healey is heavy on the gas pedal right away with his dirty rhythms and non-stop melodies. Even though throughout the album, the band can slow it down with mid-tempo grooves (“Macon Georgia Blue” and album-closer, “Rachel’s Song,”) Get Me Some is at it’s peak when the band cranks it up and Jhealey wails on his guitar. Just check out “The Damage Is Done,” and “Feel Better” for the full throttle meltdown which would make Hendrix and Stevie Ray sit up in their graves and take notice.
After Get Me Some, Healey went on to explore the world of swing jazz music which led him to more success, but he will always be known as a blues rock guy. However, Jeff Healey is more than a novelty blind guitarist or the guy in the Patrick Swayze movie. Healey was pure talent, a true artist in every sense of the music word.
Sadly, the music industry lost Jeff Healey on March 2, 2008. The musician lost his battle with cancer. He was 41 years of age.
Eagle Rock’s rerelease of Get Me Some is a terrific reminder of how truly great Jeff Healey was. He should never be forgotten. Rest in Peace Jeff.