KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ronald McFadden, a Kansas City jazz star and one half of the McFadden Brothers, has died. He was 66.
McFadden and his brother Lonnie performed together for decades in Kansas City and across the world.
McFadden’s family released a statement, saying the 66-year-old died unexpectedly Monday night.
He and Lonnie had just completed a performance at the Loews Hotel in downtown Kansas City, according to Bishop Saundra McFadden-Weaver, Ronald and Lonnie’s sister. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
McFadden and his siblings grew up in Kansas City with the famous father, dancer and singer Jimmy McFadden.
Ronald McFadden graduated from Lincoln High School in 1975. He taught for several years at Paseo Performing Arts Academy and was the first member of the Marching Cobras drill team, according to family.
But he and his brother, along with their band, are best known for entertaining millions of jazz fans. The McFadden Brothers have had many incredible acts, including at the International Jazz Festival, with Wayne Newton, overseas for U.S. military troops, and with the Count Basie Orchestra.
In 2022, the brothers were inducted into the Jazz Walk of Fame in Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine District.
McFadden had once claimed he was retired, his family said, but he never stopped working at his brother’s club downtown, Lonnie’s Reno Club. The two often performed there together frequently.
McFadden-Weaver said her brother also worked as IT support, sound man, camera man and announcer at Community Fellowship Church where she pastors. He also worked at Twelve Gates Memorial Gardens with his sister.
“I don’t know how he kept up with me, his music career and his family all day, every day and he was in church every Sunday,” McFadden-Weaver said in a statement.
“But if Ronald had to leave, I am finding solace in knowing that he left with a smile on his face because he left doing what he loved — performing on stage with his brother, continuing the legacy of our late father … and putting smiles on the faces of others.”
McFadden-Weaver said the family is asking for prayers and privacy as they mourn and plan a public celebration of Ronald McFadden’s life.
The American Jazz Museum released the following statement Tuesday about McFadden’s passing:
“Sending our dearest condolences to the McFadden Family on the loss of Ronald McFadden, the great vocalist, saxophonist and tap dancer. Thanks for your talent and for making us proud. We’ll miss every beat. Rest in Heaven, your family at the American Jazz Museum.”