Over the years, the Eddie Coffey group has become well-known for their charitable work, supporting everything from Canadian troops to children’s clubs.
“I guess we just love giving,” explains guitarist Rhonda Stamp.
When the band goes on a provincewide Arts and Culture Centre tour next week, their philanthropy will have a more personal reason behind it.
As a 17-year-old, Stamp gave a baby girl up for adoption. In March 2012, that girl came back into her life.
Stamp, in Florida at the time, got a call from her father, here in
St. John’s, telling her he had just received a call from a lady whose name Rhonda didn’t recognize.
“I said, ‘Who is she, a bill collector?’” Stamp said, laughing. “He said, ‘No, Rhonda, she’s your daughter from 34 years ago. She wants you to call her.’”
It took Stamp four days to get up the nerve to call her daughter back. When she did, she said, they tried to fit 34 years into one phone call.
The woman had sought out her biological mother in an effort to obtain some of her family’s medical history.
She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy.
While breast cancer isn’t in Stamp’s family, it is in the family of her daughter’s biological father, with whom Stamp said she has remained friends.
Stamp flew back to St. John’s two months after receiving the phone call. Her daughter had already met the rest of her biological family by that point.
“I was calling my family and saying I’m a nervous wreck, and all they said to me was, ‘What are you a nervous wreck for? Meeting her for the first time? She’s just like you.’
“When I came down over the stairs at the airport, my brother Wayne grabbed me and turned my head and said, ‘Here she is.’ We just embraced, hugged, and it was amazing. It was an instant bond.”
Stamp said her daughter, who declined an interview with The Telegram, had a “very, very good upbringing” with her adoptive parents, and has children of her own, making Stamp a grandmother. It was Stamp’s daughter who came up with the idea of The Eddie Coffey Band contributing to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The band — Coffey, Stamp and Harold O’Connell — have long been patriotic Newfoundlanders: they perform in Newfoundland tartan vests, singing Coffey’s original tunes.
Among them are “Sweet Forget Me Not,” “Jack of All Trades” and “Grey Foggy Day,” which has become something of a classic in local culture.
“The songs celebrate the East Coast and people that work in the traditional industries, and poke fun at current issues, like the price of gas,” the band’s press kit states.
Coffey, a 68-year-old native of Cuslett, Placentia Bay, has more than 30 records to his credit, and has been writing and performing for close to 50 years.
The band draws large crowds of ex-pat Newfoundlanders across the country and the United States, where the members often perform at military bases and veterans’ hospitals to boost morale.
They’ve been invited to Washington to perform at a memorial service for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Coffey even has a song, “Attack On America,” which is a tribute to the victims), and have been commended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“By contributing your time and sharing your musical talent, you have done a great deal to promote good will and respect for the sacrifices of our armed forces,” Harper wrote them in 2007.
With their Breast Cancer Survival Tour, the band members will be performing the songs people will expect to hear — they’re used to playing “Grey Foggy Day” two or three times in one show, based on requests from the audience — as well as some new, not-yet recorded music.
Fifty per cent of all ticket sales will be donated to Daffodil Place in
St. John’s, a 24-room facility where cancer patients and their caregivers can stay while in town receiving cancer treatment.
“I don’t like the word ‘if,’ so I’ll say when the tickets are sold out, we will be able to give Daffodil Place about $100,000,” Stamp said.
“That’s our goal — to fill the Arts and Culture Centres.”
The Eddie Coffey Band’s Breast Cancer Survival Tour will take them to St. John’s Oct. 16, Gander Oct. 19, Corner Brook Nov. 2, Stephenville Nov. 3, Grand Falls-Winsor Nov. 9 and Happy Valley-Goose Bay Nov. 16. Tickets are $37, including tax and service charge, and are available at the local Arts and Culture Centre box offices or online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.