Jeff Healey documentary announced – and the trailer is pure guitar fire

Jeff Healey, onstage in 1993. Healey's life will be celebrated in new documentary See The Light: The Jeff Healey Story
(Image credit: Gary Malerba/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Estate of Jeff Healey has announced a new documentary celebrating the life of the late Canadian blues guitar legend. See The Light: The Jeff Healey Story will comprise newly shot interviews, archive materials and, if the teaser trailer is to be believed, no shortage of red-hot guitar playing.

Healey, who died aged 41 in 2008 after a three-year battle with cancer, was a player like no other, and it found him in exalted company, sitting in with the likes of BB King, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Lukather and Walter Trout. Lukather says there was no one quite like Healey.

“Jeff was one of the most unique players of all-time.” said Lukather. “He redefined what the guitar can do and how you can play it. Pure soul and fire.”

Healey’s playing was rooted in blues-rock but stylistically audacious – so much so he didn’t look out of place playing a double-necked Jackson Soloist at the height of the ‘80s. More often than not he was associated with the Stratocaster, in particular the Squier JV models. But it was how he played them that got everyone’s attention. 

He approached the fretboard from a totally different angle, sitting the guitar in his lap, a technique he developed from a young age. 

Healey was one year old when he lost his sight from retinoblastoma. He picked up the guitar when he was three, a Christmas present from his father. Right there and then, the dye was cast. He’d be a player. At 14 he was on CBC hosting a jazz segment. A year later, in 1981, he joined his first band, Blue Direction.

In 1985 he was invited up to jam with Albert Collins and SRV at Albert’s Hall, Toronto. That set  everything in motion. On 29 September 1985, he formed The Jeff Healey Band with Tom Stevens on the drums and Joe Rockman on bass guitar. 

Their 1988 debut album, See The Light, scored a hit in Angel Eyes and a Grammy Award for Hideaway, with Healey starring in and contributing to the score for cult Patrick Swayze vehicle Road House. Healey’s live-wire guitar was perfect for that. Roadhouse Blues, indeed.

The Jeff Healey Band called it quits in 2001 but Healey carried on making music, playing guitar, playing trumpet, collecting records and playing jazz with the appropriately named Jazz Wizards. He played his last show with them on 2 February 2008, and passed away a month later.

“He was always growing as a musician,” said Walter Trout. “He was always trying to get better and expand. I think it’s really a tragedy how he died so young. A sad thing.”

There is no release date yet for the documentary, which was a co-production between the Healey estate and the Toronto-based TGTV. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Toronto based TGTV to produce this documentary,” said Cristie Healey, wife of Jeff Healey and co-administrator of his estate. “The film will look at Jeff's remarkable story through new interviews, archival footage and Jeff’s own unique voice.”

No final list of interviewees but we would expect the likes of Lukather, Raitt, Trout and Sonny Landreth, to be involved. Landreth said the film was important to keep Healey’s legacy alive.

 “It’s important to turn the next generation on to people like Jeff,” he said. “He’s right up there with the all-time greats…”

For more information on all things Healey, head over to the official Jeff Healey website.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.