PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia superstar musician who’s known for his work both on the stage and behind the scenes with the likes of Michael Jackson, The Roots and many more is now in the battle of his life.
The community is rallying behind the one and only Jeff Bradshaw.
You don’t always see Bradshaw, but you can’t miss the soulful sound of his Trombone. It’s unmistakable.
“I love playing the trombone,” Bradshaw says smiling, “as my son says…’nobody does it better.'”
One of the architects of Philadelphia’s neo-soul revolution, Bradshaw has toured the world for more than two decades, playing with the likes of Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Jill Scott, and many more. But last October while rehearing for a show in Philadelphia, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and was rushed to the hospital.
“It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life,” he says.
Bradshaw was diagnosed with a severe case of diverticulitis, an infection in his bowels caused by years of a poor eating. The disease left him with abscesses in his large intestines, zapping Bradshaw’s energy and forcing him to put down his horn for the first time in years.
“I’ve been down– no shows, no nothing,” says Bradshaw, who spent weeks in the hospital.
With no health insurance at the time of the diagnosis and no money coming in, medical bills piled up quickly. That’s when Bradshaw’s famous friends stepped up. He says singer Jill Scott started a GoFundMe page and in just a few weeks, fans donated more than $20,000.
“I didn’t know if I was ready to tell the world, Jeff Bradshaw, who toured with this person and that needed help,” says Bradshaw, “it was humbling.”
Today, Bradshaw is 50-plus pounds lighter. He no longer eats cheesesteaks, pizza and fried chicken. Instead, he lives on a plant-based diet, with plenty of green smoothies, salads and grilled foods.
“I feel so much better,” he says. “How can you not feel good when you are feeding yourself such good nutrients.”
But Bradshaw is not out of the woods yet. In just a few weeks, he’ll undergo surgery to remove 18 inches of his intestines.
“They will remove all of the damaged part,” he says. “It’ll give me a fresh start– and I’ll keep eating like this and move forward with my life.”
That’ll mean eating clean and green when he’s back on stage. Also, it means avoiding alcohol. While Bradshaw still craves his old favorites like cheesesteaks– the father of three loves the stage much more.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” he says, noting that a February concert was cancelled because of low ticket sales. He says fans were unsure if he’d be there because of his health. Bradshaw admits diverticulitis has taken some of the wind out of his sails, but he’s in the gym, working hard to regain his strength so he can continue playing the instrument he loves.
“I’m better– I’m now at 90 percent,” he says.
On Friday, neo-soul starts Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, Bilal, Raheem DeVaughn and others will perform at a sold out benefit concert at the TLA on South Street before 900 adoring fans and supporters. The proceeds will help Bradshaw get on his feet and a portion will go to support Grammy’s Music Cares, a charity that helps musicians when they fall on hard times.
“I feel so blessed,” says Bradshaw, “and so humbled by it all.”
So what will he do when he looks out at packed TLA and sees so many people who love him?
“Cry, thank God and just be humble,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw says he also hopes that when people hear his horn, they also hear his message about diverticulitis.