Book Review: Drummer Recalls Time in The Jeff Healey Band

Cover Design: Troy Cunningham. Cover Photograph: Barrie Wentzell

 

The Best Seat In The House: My Life in The Jeff Healey Band by Tom Stephen, with Keith Greenberg (ECW Press, 2018), is an inside look at one of the best guitar players in rock music, told by his drummer and one time manager (If Greenberg’s name looks familiar, it is because he helped write wrestlers Ric Flair, Freddy Blassie, and Superstar Billy Graham’s books).

I first heard of the Jeff Healey Band, like many here in the U.S., when his single “Angel Eyes” hit the Top Ten Singles Chart in 1989. Later, while playing drums in a blues/rock band, we played Healey’s version of “Stuck in The Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel off of the band’s 1995 album “Cover to Cover” (It is still my favorite version of the song).

The book is told by Stephen, who starts off telling about his life, how he went to graduate school, only to end up playing drums and becoming the manager of the band led by the blind guitar player Healey. The book details what seemed to be a chip on the shoulder of Healey from the first day meeting Stephen and throughout their time in the Jeff Healey Band, along with this attitude when Healey would snub famous musicians like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. Healey also takes his frustrations out on Stephen and the record companies throughout the years, which Stephen describes.

There are some great stories in the book, which at times is humorous as well as entertaining, like the time the band hung out with ZZTop when they were touring together, Healey driving various vehicles (like golf carts, tour buses, and cars), and how he fell asleep during a meeting with the legendary Clive Davis of Arista Records. There is also a story about the band’s interaction with wrestler Terry Funk during the shooting of the 1989 Patrick Swayze film “Roadhouse,” which the band was cast in the film. Stephen states that Funk could party harder than all the crew, but would ask Healey to answer to phone when a certain person called for Funk (No Spoilers here). There is another great story during the shooting that shows how Healey ended up getting more lines than originally intended, the first time the band met Swayze on set, and the time they almost quit the film.

There are tales about meeting Alice Cooper, Bill Clinton (as governor and when he became president), Tom Jones, and stories on the road with drugs, girls, and parties with drinking contests.

The Best Seat in The House also has an underlining theme of three men who were not only band members, but stuck up for each other as brothers, even though it cost them big tours and deals that could have made the band even bigger. As the manager at the time, Stephen’s honesty comes through, where he admits mistakes made as manager, and how his attitude caused friction with labels, management, and even the other band members. Stephen even lets others who were around the band at the time state their opinions, including their thoughts on Stephen himself, which makes the book an honest account, without the author and writer editing the fact that many that did not care for him or the way he managed the band.

Most drummers do not get a chance to write their story about the bands they were in, although it seems to be changing in music biographies in the past few years (the Bobby Rock book on Vinnie Vincent-which has been reviewed here in the archives is one example), but the fact that Stephen was also the manager of the band, there is another insight to his story, besides just showing up for the gigs.

The end of the book is touching, where Stephen writes about why the band broke up, Healey’s views towards him, and how Stephen reacted to Healey’s death in 2008. Stephen’s story is not all rainbows being in the spotlight touring around the world, which is one of the enjoyable aspects to the book. The honesty and ending to the band is what makes the book a wonderful read, especially for musicians to learn about the inside workings of the music industry.

Even if you are not too familiar with the Jeff Healey Band, this book is one that music lovers would still enjoy; filled with humorous road stories, management problems, and the admittance of mistakes and problems that ended the band’s run and friendship, all told in a grateful, and honest recollection.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press, via their Shelf Monkey                       Giveaway.

 

The Best Seat In The House: My Life In The Jeff Healey Band by Tom Stephens with Keith Elliot Greenberg (ECW Press, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-77041-8) , along with other ECW Titles, are available at: http://www.ecwpress.com.

 

For information on Keith Elliot Greenberg , go to: http://www.facebook.com/keith.e.greenberg

 

The Overall:

Pages: 240

Language: Moderate

Geared For: 16 and Up

For fans of: Music, Biographies.

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