One of Kansas City’s own, Ronald McFadden, 66, who together with his brother Lonnie, is well known for entertaining audiences in Kansas City and worldwide, died unexpectedly Monday evening. He and Lonnie had just completed a performance at the Loews Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Mo. according to the entertainment duo’s sister and family spokesperson, Bishop Saundra McFadden-Weaver, who today said the cause of death is unknown at this time.
As this shocking news travels throughout the city about Ronald’s death, the family asks for the community’s prayers, and respect for their privacy stating that plans are underway to share details for a public celebration of his life.
A devoted father and husband, Ronald was a 1975 graduate of Lincoln High School. He taught for several years at the Paseo Performing Arts Academy in Kansas City, Mo., and was the very first member of the Marching Cobras Drill team.
Following in their dad’s footsteps as musical entertainers, Ronald and his brother and their band have performed around the world. Some of their many performances have included being the starring act for the International Jazz Festival on one occasion; performing in residence with famed singer Wayne Newton, and on telethons with musical greats such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Ben Vereen, and Cab Calloway. Ronald and his brother went to Afghanistan and performed for the troops, performed several times in Japan and were spotlighted in Greece at the International Jazz Festival. He and Lonnie have performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, Oleta Adams and numerous other musical greats.
Last year, Ronald and Lonnie were inducted in the Jazz Walk of Fame in Kansas City’s historic 18th & Vine District. Gerald Dunn, saxophonist, general manager/director of entertainment at the American Jazz Museum at 18th & Vine said, “Just as Kansas City has been a beacon of light for so many around the world, the McFadden Brothers have been a beacon of light for Kansas City for a long time. He leaves such a wealth of relationships, knowledge, and legacy that are the fabric of our city’s history and will never be forgotten.”
Renowned saxophonist, composer and educator Bobby Watson was also shocked and stunned as news spread about Ronald’s passing. Watson said, “Ronald was a consummate entertainer, tap dancer and musician. We were fortunate to be able to honor the McFadden Brothers several times during my tenure as director of Jazz Studies at UMKC. I am totally in shock about his passing. The first time I saw him, I realized the gifts and the skills that he had–Ronnie was masterful with his feet, his fingers and his voice. I can vividly remember one of our duo performances on the GEM Theater stage years ago and to me, it remains a timeless classic. We’ve lost a huge Kansas City treasure. God Bless Ronald—may he rest in peace and power.” Bishop McFadden-Weaver pastors Community Fellowship Church in Kansas City, Mo., where Ronald multi-tasked as the church’s IT person, sound man, camera man and the voice announcer that preceded her on the weekly Sunday radio broadcasts.
While Ronald had once claimed he was “retired,” he never stopped working and often performed on stage with his brother at Lonnie’s Reno Club in the Ambassador Hotel, downtown. Besides that, he worked for Bishop McFadden-Weaver at Twelve Gates Memorial Gardens.
Reflecting on her brother Ronald, the Bishop said, “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. She added, “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 “Pops McFadden” (whose group was known on the early Kansas City jazz scene as Smiling Jimmy and the Four Chocolate Drops)–and putting smiles on the faces of others.”
An official obituary and details for the celebration of life services that will be held for Ronald McFadden will be released as soon as they are finalized. Services are entrusted to Elite Funeral Chapel in Kansas City, Mo.