This story began with a thoughtful note sent to us way back in March of 2013 by James Skatges. James told us of the passing of his father Michael and how when going through his things, he had come across a handful of photos he’d taken of a 1999 Jeff Healey performance in an Evergreen, Colorado bar called ‘The Little Bear Western Saloon‘.
‘The Little Bear’ is an unforgettable character of a club, a rowdy mountain bar with rafters that are festooned with bras (visitors have been known to be encouraged to bring an extra if they want to add to the decor) that has been rocking Colorado since 1975…
James kindly offered send us copies of his dad’s pics for our archives. When we first got a chance to look at the shots he’d so generously sent us, we thought cool, these are really nice. Then we came to a shot of a large man with a pompadour embracing Jeff on stage. Who is that and why does he look so familiar? The next shot, featured this same guy, but now he was behind the drum kit. Then it clicked. Oh my God… it’s Buddy Miles.
Legendary singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Buddy Miles is probably best known as drummer for Jimi Hendrix’s, ‘Band of Gypsys‘, but he was a founding member of blues/rock group, Electric Flag, performed and recorded with such greats as John McLaughlin and Santana, sang for the California Raisins(!) and so many, many more. His solo albums are legend, the song ‘Them Changes’ a timeless classic.
Over the years, I recall Jeff mentioning that he’d been fortunate enough to play with Buddy, but until James’ note, there was never any reason to believe the moment had been captured in any way other than in some fond memories…
The second part of our story involves our friend Bob Johnson. Bob was kind enough to share on Youtube, a fantastic live set of Jeff’s from 2000. (…and you can check it out HERE) When we reached out to Bob, he sent us a list of other private recordings he had in his collection, graciously offering to make copies of any we were missing in our archives. One jumped out immediately. Jeff Healey, live in Colorado at The Little Bear Saloon, recorded by Bob’s friend, Craig Keyzer! It is an audience recorded bootleg from 15 years ago (and all that it implies with regards to sound quality…), but it gives you the essence of the incredible electricity flying around that crazy, kitchy, bra filled room. Combined, we now have a snapshot of this magic night.
Jeff Healey Band bassist and dear friend, Joe Rockman was kind enough to share some of his memories of the night with us…
What a pleasant surprise and honour it was to have Buddy Miles sit in with the Jeff Healey Band in front of a packed club in Colorado. Not just because of his storied history with Jimi etc, but he was one of those rare drum experts who play the instrument musically and not just as “Drums.”
As a Bassist it was a true rare treat. We dream of a musical rhythm section – not just uni-dimensional rhythm and power. Buddy’s technique complimented Jeff so well too – I’m assuming partly due to his playing with Jimi.
Buddy had it all and could pack 300 pounds of force into his kick and snare. You felt it in your chest, gut and ass! Seemingly cramming every chop he knew into each song. It was relentless and exhilarating.
Some musicians speak of this type of drummer as “a runaway train – just strap yourself in!”
I felt Buddy was more like a Saturn 5 rocket under its own guidance system.
I just strapped myself in – headed along for outer space and prayed we wouldn’t crash or blow up!
It was one of those nights that imprint in your memory forever.
I came away from that evening a better musician for sure.”
So here they are folks: Jeff Healey, Buddy Miles, Joe Rockman and Pat Rush having a complete blast… Enjoy!
“That was an amazing night playing with Buddy and hangin’ on our tour bus with him after! Really happy to hear these recordings. Did not know they existed…” -Pat Rush
I don’t know how much these two brilliant musicians interacted beyond this fateful jam, but I can tell you that at the time of Jeff’s passing, he still had two different numbers for Buddy listed in his braille phone book…
Sadly, Buddy Miles passed away on February 26th, 2008… only 4 days before Jeff.
(All photos by Michael Skatges of Thornton, Colorado – courtesy James Skatges – and for more on Buddy Miles, please check HERE)
And a brief PS…
Without you, the fans, all of this would have been be lost forever. Thank you. If any of you out there have pics you’ve snapped, audio you’ve recorded, video you’ve shot… we’d absolutely love to see and hear it, regardless the quality. Please feel free to get in touch at with us at email@example.com
Thanks for the reply to the facebook post I made. What a special night at the Little Bear. I remember Jeff had a cold. I also remember when his solo cup was empty he just whipped what was left of it out at the crowd !! He was the man !!! Thanks for the pics, audio and story. How I miss Jeff Healey !!
That was the only show I ever saw Mr. Healey and his band. Being a guitarist myself and as tens of millions of other string players I was blown away the first time I heard Jeff on a CD playing “Confidence Man” and “See the Light”. back in about 1992 or thereabouts. When I had the opportunity to see him at the Little Bear in Evergreen which is about a 20 minute drive from my home here in Conifer I immediately found tickets for the show. Buddy Miles playing the drums was a moment that I seem to remember the entire audiences hair standing on end from the amazing energy this man put forth. Needless to say Joe Rockman and Tom Stephen were as tight as any band I’ve ever seen. And lo and behold the amazing Pat Rush stood humbly to the side adding to the rhythm, lead and overall feel allowing for such sonic heavenly brain damage my ears still ring with the sound and taste of heavenly honey on a warm spring Colorado day. I still would enjoy being allowed more and additional live sets via compact disc further attempting to lose the rest of what hearing I have left. That’s OK though kind of like, “what nicer way to lose my hearing than listening to the blues played by Jeff Healey”. I haven’t even investigated the “Jeff Healey Blues Band” as yet. I’ve seen and met many an amazing guitarist though none as on fire from their gut strings as Jeff Healey.
This is Jeff Lanham of The Robert Fitzpatrick Org., handlers of Buddy Miles and other acts for many years. I remember that night very well!! That is me in the white shirt standing next to Buddy and Jeff.
I also have a few great stories from later that same night, on into the next day!! I have no pictures of that night and am happy to see that there are some for the archives. We had a lot of fun and as always, the folks at ‘Little Bear’ took great care of us.
Strangely enough, I also used to play drums for Bobby Whitlock (who also played on ‘Hell To Pay’)…all of them great writers and great legends! I was quite young when most of my associations with these guys started and sadly, many are gone.
Thanks again to whoever took those pics, I only wish there were more!
I love this story & audio files.
I was fortunate to see Jeff and his band here in Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s for both tours he did here.
It was a very sad day the day Jeff passed, he was a beautiful person and musician.
I have some photo’s of the 2nd show he did in Melbourne, Australia from 1990 if your interested.
Hi Adrian! We’d love to see the pics! I sent you an email. Thanks for reaching out! ~Rog