Doc DeHaven

The album cover of one of Doc DeHaven's many albums recorded in Madison. The jazz legend died Aug. 11 at age 85.

The Madison jazz community is mourning the passing of legendary trumpeter Doc DeHaven, who died Thursday night at age 85.

DeHaven was a fixture on the Madison jazz scene for over a half century, both as a performer and as a teacher at Monona Grove High School. He started his first band in 1951 while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating, he became famous for playing regular gigs three nights a week at the Pirate Ship Bar from 1957 to 1970.

Bill Grahn is a saxophone player who began playing with DeHaven in the late 1960s and for nearly 40 years after that.

"He’s an inspirational player, a great leader, very loyal to the guys he played with," Grahn said in an interview Friday. "He's also a funny guy. He would always say things to break people up." 

Trumpeter David Cooper wrote in a blog post that he befriended DeHaven when he first came to town in 1990. He said the trumpeter had a huge influence on him both as a collaborator and mentor — and also, eventually, as a father-in-law.

“He was in his sixties when I met him, but he was constantly open to new ideas and a real “practice-a-holic,” Cooper wrote on All Things Trumpet. “He was often the “elder statesman” of the band we played in but he was never regarded as anything less than ‘The Man’ when it came to soloing.”

But DeHaven's work as a teacher may have had just as much of an impact as his performing, having served as band director at Monona Grove until retiring in 1989.

“He was so willing to give of himself to his students,” Madison Jazz Society President Linda Marty Schmitz said Friday. “He taught at Monona Grove forever, but he was also willing to work with kids at any time and help them become more knowledgeable about music and jazz.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of young musicians that will come forward once they hear this news to talk about what an impact he had on them.”

Schmitz said that the society wants to talk with DeHaven’s family, including his daughter, jazz vocalist Kelly DeHaven, before making any official memorial plans.

“I would not be surprised if the Madison jazz community came together and did some kind of tribute to him,” she said.


Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.

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