David Hawley Madden | TahoeDailyTribune.com

David Hawley Madden


David Hawley Madden passed away June 10, 2006, with his four children at his side. He was born May 12, 1924, in Elkhart, Ind., to Ralph and Ella Marie Madden. His family moved, with the hundreds of thousands of others families during America’s Great Depression, to seek a better life in the storied land of California. His father had been a professional soldier and security guard most of his life, and his mother worked for many years as an accounting clerk.

Mr. Madden had been born in Indiana due to the path of his maternal grandfather, Hobart Davis, a musician in John Phillip Sousa’s band and instrument maker who worked for the then-thriving instrument makers of Elkhart. Mr. Madden began playing music professionally by age 15, and shortly thereafter his mother purchased a car for him so that he might be able to perform more readily. A childhood friend totaled the vehicle within weeks, but by age 17 Mr. Madden’s salary exceeded by several times that of his parents’ combined income.

His greatest love was the tenor saxophone, and as was the case for most professional musicians of his era, he developed proficiency on all the instruments in his instrument’s family, the reeds. Thus, his saxophone, clarinet, and flute playing were found on dozens of records made in the Big Band era, with Mr. Madden’s contributions throughout the core of American popular music of the mid-20th century. He played and recorded with Jerry Gray, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Johny Green, Bob Florence, Hoagy Carmichael, Billy Eckstine, and Harry James. This career saw him on the road for decades, playing in all the dance halls, casinos, jazz and night clubs of America.

As the Big Band era drew to a close, he found further employment in Las Vegas and then moved to South Lake Tahoe, where he was an original member of the Brian Farnon orchestra at Harrah’s. When he left in 1988, he was the last original member of that band. There, he had played behind all those who entertained at casinos, from the “Rat Pack” members, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, to such disparate entertainers as Glen Campbell, Sarah Vaughn, Bill Cosby and John Denver.

Mr. Madden knew many of the great musicians of the century and, if persistently coaxed, had untapped treasures of lore, from playing Scrabble in San Francisco with band mate Stan Getz, to receiving compliments on his time – jazz musician slang for rhythmic and metric integrity – from band mate Buddy Rich, to walking out on a jam session with fabled bassist Charles Mingus, because in Mr. Madden’s opinion, Mr. Mingus “… wasn’t playing any time.”

Mr. Madden’s other loves included literature, good food and baseball. Being a musician was his second career choice, as his dream of a life as a baseball pitcher did not appear by his teenage years as likely to work out.

Mr. Madden succumbed after many years of declining health at a nursing home following a fall. He was surrounded in the last minutes of his life by his four children, who had come from all across California. Mr. Madden was twice divorced.

He is survived by his brother, Chuck of Rowland Heights, Calif.; sons, Marcus of Penn Valley, Calif.; Kris of San Dimas, Calif.; Kevin of San Francisco; and daughter, Melissa Andersen of Rocklin, Calif.; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his sister, Mary.

Mr. Madden will be especially missed by his children, his many friends, some of whom he knew and stayed in touch with for more than 65 years, and the neighbors and even medical personnel who came to know his gentleness and sardonic wit.

At his request there will be no services. In lieu of flowers or donations, those who might wish to mark his passing are requested to read a little of Thomas Wolfe or Mark Twain, or listen to some Bach, Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, or to the music he loved and played, jazz.

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