Seen, but not comprehended.
That about sums up most of an evening I spent at a Memphis nightclub about 20 years ago. It was an evening spent with blues guitarist Jeff Healey, who died Sunday at age 41, and my friends Mike and Tam.
Mike and Tam were living in Memphis at the time, and I was visiting. We went out. One of the places we went was Night Moves.
My hazy memory tells me Night Moves was a big nightclub with an open second floor, sort of a wraparound overlook or promenade. On that long-ago night, a young Jeff Healey was playing on the stage at the back of the first floor. We were above, looking down.
I would like to say we graciously, politely watched Healey’s show. To be honest, we spent most of that night drinking beer. We heard most of the show, but managed to catch glimpses of it only now and then.
We drank so much beer that the lovely Tam trounced Mike and I in Pop-a-Shot basketball. Sad to say, Mike and I were basketball players at the time. It’s entirely possible we retired, or were retired, that night.
My only lingering memory of Healey is of looking down on a young guy sweating in a hot spotlight and furiously playing that guitar on his lap. I could not begin to tell you what he was playing.
Back before Christmas, I came across that old matchbook from Night Moves. I mentioned it to Mike and we reminisced about that night. Mike’s hazy memory is much the same as mine:
“We were listing to the music and knocking down the brews.”
I know Mike meant to type “listening.” But saying “listing to the music” might be more accurate. I’m not sure either of us could stand up straight.
Jeff Healey died Sunday of complications of the cancer that blinded him as an infant and dogged him throughout life. He started out in the blues — he was just 16 when Stevie Ray Vaughan came across him in a Toronto club — and made his name there, then moved on to old-time jazz. Also a beloved CBC Radio host, he was one of Canada’s musical icons.
However, I think my only Jeff Healey CD went out in a garage sale a couple of summers ago. But I did turn up a pretty good cut on a CD of John Hiatt tunes covered by other artists. Enjoy.
“Confidence Man,” the Jeff Healey Band, from “Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt,” 1993. It appears to be out of print. (Jeff Healey photo by Chuck Pulin from the CD booklet.)
It also is the lead cut on “See the Light,” the band’s 1988 debut album.