Best Bets: Ex-Chicago singer Coffey to celebrate troops in Dover

Jeff Coffey, former lead singer for the band Chicago, will perform a free Celebrate the Troops concert Saturday night at Dover Downs’ Fire & Ice. (Submitted photo)

It will be a star-spangled Saturday night at Dover Downs’ Fire & Ice nightclub as Jeff Coffey, the former lead singer and bassist for the legendary band Chicago, plays a Celebrate the Troops free concert this weekend.

Mr. Coffey, whose brother Chuck Broadway serves in the Air Force at the Pentagon, will tell stories about his family’s military involvement and play some patriotic songs as well as his own original music and tunes from his days with Chicago.

“It’s a way for me to express my appreciation for all they do in service for the country and how much I appreciate what they do,” said Mr. Coffey Monday afternoon from his home in Florida.

He was the third lead singer in the history of Chicago, taking over for Jason Scheff in May of 2016. He left the band in January of 2018.

He’s coming to Dover due to the work of Dawne Nickerson-Banez, 436th Airlift Wing community engagement chief at Dover Air Force Base. She was introduced to Mr. Coffey through Mr. Broadway at a Chicago concert last year in Baltimore.

“When Jeff and (wife) Holly reached out about having a concert in the area, they were choosing between Dover and Atlantic City. I, of course, pushed Dover,” Ms. Nickerson-Banez said.

“I put them in touch with my friends at Dover Downs. I suggested making it a salute to service since the base is so close. And here we are … he’s really coming to Dover.”

Mr. Coffey, 51, spent much of the ’90s in the Gainesville, Florida-based band House of Dreams, which released a self-titled CD in 1994.

In 2001, he was the touring bassist for Brian Howe, formerly of Bad Company. He released his first CD, “Jeff Coffey” in 2003. In 2007, he put out his second album “Long Way Home.”

After an almost four-year break from music, he went to Nashville to get his musical groove back, which resulted in a call from Chicago guitarist Keith Howland in the spring of 2016 asking if he would be interested in auditioning to take the place of Mr. Scheff, who replaced original lead singer Peter Cetera in 1985.

Mr. Coffey said that led to a 3 1/2-hour audition.

“I was contacted by Keith, who informed me that I basically had two weeks to learn the entire show on bass and all of the Peter Cetera songs,” he said.

“I memorized all the lyrics and the bass parts and basically ran through the entire show and then another vocalist, who is their lead singer now (Neil Donell), was also auditioning. So we then had to run through the whole show with him.

“Then once I was told I got the gig, I did my first show the very next night in Ohio.”

A trombone player in high school and college, Mr. Coffey said it was a thrill to be in Chicago, which boasts such an acclaimed horn section.

“(Chicago founding member and trombone player) James Pankow was my absolute hero growing up,” Mr. Coffey said.

“In college I was always trying to figure out how to put together a band where I could play trombone and have a rhythm and horn section like they did. He will always be the biggest trombone star on the planet for me. It was such a great treat to perform in his band each night.”

Mr. Coffey joined the group a month after Chicago’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That, coupled with the release of a documentary, which met with widespread acclaim and was featured on CNN, led to an up-tick of popularity for the band, which made for a more rigorous tour schedule than Mr. Coffey preferred with his growing family.

“That was a big factor as to why I left along with some other factors that are better left unsaid,” he said.

He felt the urge to play music early on, eventually moving from the trombone to playing bass guitar while attending the University of Central Florida.

“I was a music performance major. I just didn’t know I was playing the wrong instrument. Once I realized that I loved playing the bass and I was good at it, I left school, which I don’t recommend for everyone,” he said. “And I’ve been playing professionally now for almost 30 years.”

Mr. Coffey recently released the fun-loving single “Got to Get Away,” which some fans thought referred to his time with Chicago because the song came out not long after he left the band.

“I had a feeling some people would take it that way but I wrote the song long before I even got the Chicago gig,” he said.

“I was already preparing for my third solo record. I had four songs recorded, which all had to be put on hold because I was touring all of the time and had no time to finish. But it’s just a really fun song with a tongue-in-cheek video. People seem to really like it.”

He said he should have a new album out this year.

“We’re still writing and recording and I’m not sure of a date yet,” he said. “I had actually written some new Chicago music when there was talk of a new album. But I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. So those songs will be on this new album.”

In between getting his new record together, Mr. Coffey has been touring as the bass player for Don Felder, former lead guitarist of The Eagles.

“That’s just been a blast. He’s such a cool guy and the guys in the band are so fun to hang out with. He and Jimmy Pankow are lifelong friends. They were next-door neighbors back in the day in L.A. There are all of these small concentric circles in the music industry,” Mr. Coffey said.

“We’re playing such great Eagles tunes. Don lets me sing “Take it to the Limit” each night. It’s just great to play on stage with him. Whenever he plays something like ‘Hotel California,’ I’m thinking ‘That’s the guy who helped write that song.’ It’s just a dream come true doing stuff like that.”

Mr. Coffey’s free show at Fire & Ice starts at 9 p.m. No tickets are required.

Chapell at State House

Tonight, Delaware Friends of Folk will present the next event in their 2018-19 Old State House free concert series, inside the Old State House on The Green in Dover at 7:30.

The featured musician for the evening will be Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania artist Phyllis Chapell. Ms. Chapell has spent her life developing a universal musical style singing “world songs.”

World singer Phyllis Chapell will play Friday night’s free Old State House concert in Dover. (Submitted photo)

Her repertoire includes songs in 13 languages from Brazil, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as American folk, jazz, and popular music. She is also a skilled composer and has a catalogue of award-winning original songs. She has toured Latin America, Brazil, Europe and the USA both as a solo artist and with her band SIORA. She has released three solo recordings and three with SIORA. Her latest release, “Naked World” draws attention to environmental issues.

She has played Carnegie Hall, the Kimmel Center, and even sung the national anthem to open a Phillies game.

Blues sendoff

On Sunday, the Central Delaware Blues Society will raise money to send this year’s Battle of the Bands winner, Sussex County’s lower case blues to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis later this year.

The event, set at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia, will feature lower case blues along with Barrelhouse, The Blues Reincarnation Project, The Grey Fox Band and The Tom Craig Band.

There will be a 50/50 drawing and auctions.

Doors open at noon, music starts at 1 p.m.

Suggested donation is $10 (members) and $15 (non-members).

Preview Night

The official Dancing with the Delaware Stars Preview Night is set for Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Boulevard (formerly Cowboy Up) at 1036 Lafferty Lane in Dover.

The evening will feature the dance couples who are competing in the sold-out event set for Jan. 26 at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center.

There also will be Zumba led by Kyle Sammons and Jazzercise led by Glenenise Parks

Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite couples at $1 per vote or $20 per 25 votes. Proceeds from the event and voting go to Mom’s House of Dover and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware.

Although tickets for the dancing portion are sold out, tickets to the after party, which starts at 11:30 p.m. are still available as is the chance to vote. Both can be obtained by visiting

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Kevin Hart-Bryan Cranston comedy “The Upside”; Keanu Reeves in the sci-fi thriler “Replicas”; the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic “On the Basis of Sex”; the acclaimed film “If Beale Street Could Talk”; and the action-adventure film “A Dog’s Way Home.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the reboot of “Halloween”; “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween”; and Robert Redford in “The Old Man and The Gun.”

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