Seventy-eight-year-old saxist-singer Jimmie Maddin, one of Los Angeles’ most prolific and longest-running jazz-R&B stylists, died September 1 at the Nevada State Veterans Home. Born February 27, 1928, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Maddin arrived here in 1947 to begin a staggering run as a musician, club owner, television personality and record producer. Although a stone jazz head, Maddin specialized in crazy, hopped-up rhythm & blues, first captured on 1950’s “Boogie Boo,” where his gutsy, playful tenor sax and coolly detached vocal combined for an irresistibly charming sound. (The fact that it featured Benny Carter, Harry “Sweets” Edison and Red Callendar didn’t hurt either.)
Maddin had an amazingly active hand in the town’s churning postwar music scene, opening a series of Hollywood clubs (among them, the Sanbah, the Summit and Hot Toddies), making friends with mobsters (“Mickey Cohen was a wonderful guy”), movie stars like Jack Haley (who gave Maddin his first guest TV shot, resulting in KTLA’s weekly Jimmie Maddin Show) and John Carradine, and “all of Errol Flynn’s ex-wives.” He also flouted L.A.’s unwritten yet inviolate segregation law, using mixed bands, encouraging mixed audiences, and even duetting with Jeanette Baker on Johnny Otis’ TV show. The LAPD’s displeasure was often evident, but Maddin just kept on; his proto–rock & roll heat (check him out in the 1959 AIP flick Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow) opened doors for many. He later produced the Seeds’ first album (Sky Saxon wrote “Pushin’ Too Hard” in Maddin’s car), an offbeat move typical of Maddin’s freewheeling methods. Maddin continued blowing his sweet, hot sound at his Capri Lounge until last year (under a liquor license in continuous use for 50 years), overseeing a wild, unpredictable and perpetually swinging session. His goodhearted enthusiasm never faltered, and its loss is one all Los Angeles should mourn.
A celebration of Jimmie Maddin’s life will be held Sunday, Sept. 24, 1-4 p.m., at the Professional Musicians Local 47, 817 Vine St., Hollywood.