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7 min. read

Sep 11, 2023

Blue KC

Lonnie McFadden – Kansas City Jazz Musician Keeping the Good Times Rolling

7 min. read

Sep 11, 2023 Blue KC

Photo Credit: Michael McGee

Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, Blue Medicare Advantage member Lonnie McFadden is an incredibly talented jazz performer who sings, tap dances, and plays trumpet. See him live, and you’ll be blown away.

“I’m an unapologetic Kansas City jazz guy,” Lonnie explains. “I’m the product of growing up around Eddie Saunders, Clyde Bagby, David Daahound Williams, Carmel Jones, Orville “Biggie” Minor, Step Buddy, and Sonny Kenner.”

The 67-year-old is celebrated for his exuberant, multi-genre show style and performs consistently at a high energy level . “I don’t think I have any more energy than anybody else my age. I think what I do have is gratitude and enthusiasm,” Lonnie says.

Lonnie hails from a Kansas City jazz family, and at young age, music became instrumental in his life. His father, renowned tap dancer and musician Jimmy McFadden, had Lonnie, and his brother Ronald, in tap shoes before they were in kindergarten.The brothers also took piano lessons.

When he was seven, Lonnie had his first gig at the Muehlebach Hotel, alongside his father and brother. At age 14, Lonnie knew he wanted to be an entertainer – when he heard Clyde N’em and Her, a rhythm and blues band in their late teens. He recalls, “I had never heard anybody that young who was that good. I was listening to this guy sing, and the arrangement was so full that I was almost tearing up. It was the first time that music spoke to me.” At age 16, the band that gave him those goosebumps, also gave him the opportunity to follow his dreams and join as a trumpeter.

Flaps, shuffles and boom boom boom

Lonnie has been entertaining for 51 years – and it never gets old. “I still remember my first gig. I still remember the first time I ever got paid. I still remember the first time I carried a PA system into a venue and set up to play. I still remember how excited I was. Today, when I walk up to the stage, that same feeling still happens,” Lonnie gushes.

Until most recently, Lonnie spent much of his career on the road. For decades, he and his brother travelled extensively as The McFadden Brothers, proudly representing the Kansas City jazz scene and playing festivals and shows around the world. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis Jr. and they received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Jazz Museum in 2016 and Living Legends Awards from Tapology in 2017.

These days, you’ll find Lonnie closer to home, leading his own jazz ensemble in Kansas City. He’s the headliner at Lonnie’s Reno Club, a club named after him – where he performs every Friday and Saturday night. Located at the Ambassador Hotel, the club is owned and operated in partnership with Paul Cory and has an authentic KC vibe.

“When I’m on stage, I want us all to be on the same ride. Part of my goal every night – and I’m usually not too bad at it – is finding how to pull the whole room together”. Lonnie adds, “As an entertainer I’m always trying to figure out how I can make the evening enjoyable for everyone. When I’m playing a song, I’m paying attention to little nuances in the crowd. Are people talking? Are they listening? Are they engaged? Every night, I do everything I can to be a facilitator of fun.”

Performing keeps Lonnie on his toes and fit physically and mentally

Lonnie has no plans of retiring. With the rising popularity of Lonnie’s Reno Club, it’s been a reinvigorating time in his life. “I feel like in a lot of ways I’m just getting started,” he says.

Lonnie also embraces the dedication and the work that goes into entertaining. He practices the trumpet every day for at least 30 minutes, and often as much as two hours. On the days he doesn’t perform, he still heads down to the Club to practice tap dancing. All of which has been beneficial for his physical and mental acuity.

“I feel very grateful to be able to do something I love this much,” Lonnie reflects.