If you're a major fan of the classic Patrick Swayze film Road House, you know that the Double Deuce wouldn't have been the same without its house band, played by The Jeff Healey Band. The Canadian band peaked in popularity in the 90s following the film's release but then seemed to fade away. They were some of the very best of blues-rock, so what happened?
Similar to his character in Road House, Jeff Healey really was blind in real life. He lost his sight as an infant due to retinoblastoma (rare eye cancer) and taught himself to play the guitar when he was just three years old, eventually adopting his trademark style of playing the instrument laying flat on his lap. A skilled guitarist, he formed his own band as a teenager which eventually led to the creation of The Jeff Healey Band. The trio, comprised of Healey, bassist Joe Rockman, and drummer Tom Stephen, was formed shortly after and they began performing together around Toronto, Canada.
After landing a record deal with Arista in the late 80s and getting notoriety from their album See the Light, the group was hired to play the Double Deuce house band in Road House and was featured on the film's soundtrack with "Roadhouse Blues," "I'm Tore Down," "When The Night Comes Falling from the Sky," and "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man." The band even had speaking parts in the film and eventually, as a result of the prominent exposure, became big enough to land stadium shows.
The blues-rock band had one of the biggest hits of their career on the billboards with "Angel Eyes" from their debut album, but also found success with "Confidence Man," "Stuck in the Middle with You," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Cruel Little Number," "Full Circle," "Lost in Your Eyes," "Leave the Light On," "Heart of an Angel," "I Think I Love You Too Much" and "How Long Can a Man Be Strong".
Throughout their career, the band released a total of five albums together -- See the Light, Hell to Pay, Feel This, Cover to Cover, and Get Me Some. In the 2000s, Healey actually pursued a solo career releasing nine albums of his own including Mess of Blues, Adventures in Jazzland, Songs From The Road, and Heal My Soul: Deluxe Edition. Sadly Healey passed away after a battle with lung cancer in 2008 but is still fondly remembered for being one of the all-time great guitarists.
Alec Fraser, a bass player/producer who worked with Healey, told NPR that there was really nothing like watching him play on stage. He was an inspiration and a special kind of talent you rarely get to see. That's probably why during his lifetime he got to record with some legendary artists like Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, and more.
"Whenever we'd have someone else come up to jam with the band who was a hot guitar player as well, they would also get into these duel things, you know. And he would always sort of hold back for a while and let the guy - the other guy - really, you know, lay it on him with let me try this. What do you think of this?
And then it would be like, OK, well, I'll show you what I can do. And he would just, all the time, just leave somebody in the dust. So the next person is just like smiling, going, I can't believe what I just heard."