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This project was made possible by funding through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy and the Heritage Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Heritage

Jeff Healey

Biography

JEFFREY (JEFF) HEALEY (guitarist, trumpeter, clarinetist, vocalist) was born on March 25, 1966 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He passed away there on March 2, 2008. He attended Etobicoke High School in Toronto, and held an honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Arguably one of the most distinctive guitar players of our time, Healey was blind from the age of eight months as the result of a rare form of cancer. He began playing the guitar when he was just three years old, developing his signature style of playing with the instrument flat on his lap. Although throughout his life, he collected and loved to play traditional/classic jazz from the ‘20s and ‘30s (his personal collection of 78s numbered well over 30.000), as a youth he played primarily country music, rock, reggae, and jazz, forming his four-piece bar band, Blue Direction, when he was 17, to play at local clubs throughout Toronto.

He went on to form a critically-lauded trio which was to become a regular feature at Toronto clubs including Grossman’s Tavern and Albert’s Hall, where his Jeff Healey Band was ‘discovered’ by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan. He sold millions of hard blues/rock recordings, with a long string of hit singles frequently covered by other name bands, performed and toured with notables including Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, and Eric Clapton, wrote for and performed in feature films, and boosted the careers of dozens of performers in his bands, but by the year 2000, began to turn his talents almost exclusively, to one of his early loves, jazz, releasing three CDs featuring American ‘trad’ jazz from the early 1900s.

In his final years, Jeff Healey also performed in concert and toured with his latest group, Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards, and hosted a popular radio program on JAZZ.FM91 entitled ‘My Kind of Jazz’, drawing from his vast collection of classic jazz recordings as the show’s content.

Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards performed in concert during the “Sound of Toronto Jazz” Series at the Ontario Science Centre on November 12, 2004.

AWARDS

1983 – Named to the Canadian Stage Band All Stars (while a member of the Etobicoke Collegiate Senior Stage Band

1984 – Named to the Canadian Stage Band All Stars

1988 – ‘Best Instrumental’ Grammy nomination to the Jeff Healey Band for the single ‘Hideaway’ from the album ‘See the Light’ (Arista Records)

1989 – ‘See the Light’ album (Arista Records) winner of Holland’s Edison Award as ‘Best Foreign Rock Recording’

1989 – ‘Angel Eyes’ top 40 hit single from the ‘See the Light’ album reaches No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100

1990 – Juno Award winner as ‘Entertainer of the Year’

1990 – ‘Guitar Player’ Magazine names Jeff Healey ‘Best Blues Guitarist’ and ‘Best New Talent’