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Jeff Healey was born in Toronto on March 25th, 1966 and was adopted by his parents in July of that year. As an infant, Healey developed retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer, and consequently lost his sight at the age of one. At the age of three, his father gave him his first guitar and music became a permanent part of his life. Healey developed a unique way of playing the guitar, which involved laying the guitar on his lap and playing with all five fingers of his left hand, picking the guitar with his right hand. Healey lived and grew up in Toronto’s west end, and started collecting records by the age of ten, collecting 78 format gramophone records.
He formed his first band, Blue Direction, in 1979 at the age of thirteen. In July of 1985 he was invited on stage to play with Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan at Albert Hall, in Toronto. Soon after, in September of that year, Healey met Tom Steven and Joe Rockman at Toronto’s Grossman’s Tavern, and together, they formed the Jeff Healey Band. The band gained success with the release of singles such as “See the Light” and “Adriana”. By 1987, they had received radio airplay in the U.S. In 1988, Jeff began hosting his first radio show on the University of Toronto’s radio station CUIT, playing jazz records from his now vast collection of 78s. Shortly afterwards the Jeff Healey Band released their breakthrough album See the Light, which resulted in their success across the border, with appearances on television and eventually earning them a Grammy nomination in 1989. Later that year the band appeared in the movie Roadhouse and on its soundtrack, and in 1990 the band won their first Juno award.
In 1991, the band established Forte Records, their own recording studio on Spadina Road in Toronto. In October of 1991, Healey began hosting “My Kinda Jazz” on CBC radio, a one hour radio show during which he plays jazz music recorded between 1917 and 1942 from his personal music collection. In 1994, Jeff and his wife Cristie Healey, had their first daughter, Rachel. The band continued to remain successful, recording several more albums. In 2001, Jeff Healey opened his first music club in Toronto, Healey’s, where he and his blues band and jazz band would play weekly. Jeff was later awarded a Maple Blues Award for Lifetime Acheivement at the 2001 award ceremony. Jeff soon formed his jazz band, the Jazz Wizards, who he continued to play and record with for the rest of his life. During this time, Jeff also had a blues band, the Jeff Healey Blues Band. Jeff also had his own short lived record label, Healey-O-Phonic, upon which he released his 2004 solo album, Adventures in Jazzland. Later that year he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2005, his son Derek was born.
Over the next few years Healey released more albums, and opened another club, Healey’s Roadhouse, but was also diagnosed with cancer, and underwent surgery and treatment. In February 2008, Jeff performed live for the final time in Goderich, Ontario, with his band the Jazz Wizards. Jeff Healey died at the age of 41 after battling metastatic lung cancer for three years. Only a month later, Mess of Blues was released, and marked his first return to rock and blues music in eight years. In October of 2009, Jeff was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame, now known Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. Several albums have been released posthumously, and in 2011 Woodford Park, in Etobicoke, Ontario, was renamed Jeff Healey Park.
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Abrams, Steven, and Tyrone Settlemier. The Online Discographical Project. 13 Feb 2013. Web 27 March 2013.
“Guest Blog – Mike Daley”. The Official Website of Jeff Healey. Estate of Jeff Healey. Dec 17 2012. Web. 27 March 2013.
“Jeff Healey: History”. The Official Website of Jeff Healey. Estate of Jeff Healey. 2012. Web. 27 March 2013.
Petersen, Holger. Talking Music. London, Ontario: Insomniac, 2011.
Porter, Lewis, Michael Ullman, and Edward Hazell. Jazz: From its Origins to the Present. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1993.
Staunton, Ted. Ted Staunton’s 78 rpm Label Gallery. WebRing. Web. 27 March 2013.