“Right from the get-go, Tom Stephen will have you hooked. Through Tom's eyes we get to relive the bands adventures."
– Kate Wright 98.1FM Mid-Day Host/Music ............................Coordinator/ Program Manager
“This is an excellent book in a world of rock and roll books. It is a candid, funny, sad, controversial story of the wild ride of Jeff and his band.”
- Stephen Tapp - Stingray Music
Quotes for the Two Time Grammy nominated/Juno Winning/Multiple Award Winning: Jeff Healey Band
“Most people kinda figured I descended from outer space.” - Jeff Healey
“Why the f*** is Jeff Healey not in the rock and roll Hall of Fame?” - Tom Cochrane
“Jeff has revolutionized the way guitar is played.” - Stevie Ray Vaughan
“He showed the world that music will get out of the soul one way or another, that there is no wrong way to play an instrument or make music. His musical voice will live forever.” - Steve Lukather
“You've got a guy...named Jeff Healey and there's none better than him...Pass the word on him. I love that guy.” - BB King
“An Amazing guitarist.” - George Harrison
“He was a true phenomenon.” - SLASH
“He was brilliant.” - Paul Shaffer
“Wherever you are, Jeff, we remember rocking with you.” - Bryan Adams
“When he touched that guitar, it was like David Gilmour - you could feel him when he played. He was just meant to be up there.” - Steve Herman, senior vice-president, touring of Live Nation
“The first time I saw Jeff play guitar on his lap my jaw dropped. There was a furiosity to his playing that took the
audience to another level.” - Rob Light, Partner/Managing Director/Head of Music, Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
Jeff Healey Band
Jeff Healey – Guitar/Vocals
Joe Rockman – Bass
Tom Stephen - Drums
Tom Stephen describes The Jeff Healey Band as a “collection of nerds” who became “Gods amongst men” for a time.
Best Seat in the House - One Sheet
by Michael Barclay - author of The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip
You want a polite, modest, bland and bleach-y clean biography of a Canadian icon? This is not it.
You want fist fights, groupies, drugs, drink and trashed hotel rooms (not unlike the film Road House, in which the band starred), set to the soundtrack of a smoking hot rock trio fronted by a once-in-a-lifetime guitarist and featuring an all-star cast, including Bon Jovi, Bill Clinton and two Beatles? Did I mention the book begins with a blind man driving a tour bus on an icy I-95? Then this is the book for you.
That said, The Best Seat in the House: My Life in the Jeff Healey Band, by drummer/co-manager Tom Stephen, is a respectful book. Despite recent acrimony with Healey’s estate, Stephen clearly loves the man, the music and the memories, and is on an evangelical mission to get the Toronto guitar god into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.
Who was Jeff Healey? If you even need to ask, then you definitely need to read this book. A towering, charismatic, blind guitarist who played a unique style of guitar, he made his mark playing blues-based roadhouse rock, selling a combined three million copies worldwide of his debut album, 1988’s See the Light and the 1989 soundtrack to Road House (in which Healey co-starred). His biggest hit single was the John Hiatt ballad “Angel Eyes,” which barely scratched the surface of the depth of his talent. As a Hendrixian guitarist—with all the virtuosity, curiosity and eclecticism that comparison implies—he had no shortage of famous fans: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Dr. John, Slash, Jimmy Iovine, Patrick Swayze, ZZ Top. “You’re a muthafucka,” Chuck Berry once told Healey after the Toronto trio backed up the rock’n’roll originator. James Brown had similarly profane praise: “Jeff, you’re one motherfucker of a guitar player and your band’s cool, too.”
Jeff Healey knew he was brilliant. He wasn’t a modest Canadian, and he wasn’t a fool. It can be argued, however, that it might be somewhat foolish to piss off rock gods Keith Richards, Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan, industry legend Ahmet Ertegun and even George Harrison. They all encountered what could easily be construed as the arrogance of the young Canadian hotshot, when really the strong-willed Healey just thought he was doing what was best for him and the band. And despite everyone in the biz telling Healey almost nightly to ditch his rhythm section—which happened to feature his co-manager, Tom Stephen, on drums—the guitarist stayed true to the trio who drove through blizzards with him and came to his instant defence in more than one rowdy roadhouse brawl.
There were lots of fights on the way up. And the way down: physical altercations with patrons, with record execs, with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s manager—but never with each other. Tom Stephen was the pushy manager who dared to pull double duty as a musician; an industry no-no, as everyone in the industry told him time and time again. Maybe they were right: it’s hard to be the disciplinary enforcer in the band when you were drinking until dawn with the rest of them on the night before the morning after. (On one such rough morning, Stephen got a “tut-tut” from none other than Ringo Starr.)
Stephen’s chutzpah in the mid-’80s led him to show up cold in New York City, hoping to run into fellow Canadian Paul Shaffer and be introduced to someone who could get Healey a record deal. Days later, he left NYC with a nine-album deal from Clive Davis of Arista. Stephen had street smarts he learned growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick, where many of his classmates ended up in a local jail where the Jeff Healey Band played a gig years later. One of his classmates died in prison after murdering four people, including two Hells Angels. Today, Stephen is no tough guy, however; the wisdom of age allows him to fully admit when he was a total asshole, and his memoir is remarkably candid and self-aware.
The Jeff Healey Band didn’t end well: they became estranged as Healey moved on from rock’n’roll in the 2000s, and devoted himself to playing the kind of early jazz that was always closest to his heart; he’d been collecting old 78-rpm records since he was a kid. Things eventually got so bad between the original trio that Stephen was disinvited from Healey’s funeral in 2008; Healey died of cancer at age 41. Facing his own health concerns now, Stephen is worried that Jeff Healey’s musical genius is in danger of being forgotten, and this warts-and-all, page-turner of a portrait is destined to secure his legacy. The time for bitterness and bad blood is over, and now the full story has been told by the man who had the Best Seat in the House.