Doc DeHaven

Doster (Doc) DeHaven

Doc was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1931 and is still living in Madison today, although, sadly he is no longer playing trumpet.  As a musician in the Madison area, I have rarely – if ever – run into another musician who has not heard of him or worked with him.  Doc is truly a Wisconsin Legend.  His heyday was during the 60s and 70s when he led a band that had a steady gig at a downtown club called the Pirate Ship.  He held that gig for over 14 years – four nights a week!  There were a number of recordings made from that band both live at the Pirate Ship and in the studio.

I first became aware of Doc DeHaven through his publications. As a student at Shell Lake Jazz Camp I was in a combo that played three or four Dixie arrangements that Doc had published. All of the collective improvisation inherent in Dixie was written out and the counterpoint and lines were wonderful. Those tunes were a blast and stuck with me for many years. I actually teach at Shell Lake now and try to use one of Doc’s charts in each combo I work with.

I first met Doc when I moved to Madison in 1990.  He got me work in two local big bands (Madison Jazz Orchestra and Dick Jergens Orchestra) and we worked together or subbed for each other for many years.  It was always a very nerve-wracking situation to get a call to sub for Doc.  His style of music was a lyrical style of Dixie sometimes called Chicago Swing and my Freddie/Tom Harrell vocabulary simply did not work in those situations.  The other thing that made those situations difficult was that Doc had a huge following.  When I would show up in Doc’s stead, there were always questions and comments like, “so, where’s Doc?”, “Who’s this young guy playing all those notes?”  and my favorite, “You’re good, but no Doc DeHaven.”

Doc and I got to spend some time together on buses and hotels and we traded a lot of jazz information.  He was one of those guys that played like he was whistling; didn’t matter what key a tune was in and could play just about anything he knew in any key.  If he didn’t know a tune, he would after hearing it a couple times.  He talked to me about developing my ear, memorizing tunes and thinking melodically when I improvise.  I would talk to him about chord substitutions or pentatonics.  He was in his sixties when I met him but he was constantly open to new ideas and a real “practice-a-holic”.  He was often the “elder statesman” of the bands we played in but he was never regarded as anything less than “The Man” when it came to soloing.

About two years after Doc and I met, I met his daughter, jazz singer Kelly DeHaven.  We’ve been married 18 years now.  My first recording session as a jazz musician was playing an arrangement of mine of “Joy Spring” on one of Doc’s CDs called Jazzscapes

On June 2, 2012 the Madison Area Music Awards gave Doc a lifetime achievement award and honored him at a concert at the Overture Center.  He and his daughter Kelly accepted the award and a collage of some of his recordings was played.  I am including that collage here.

Doc Compilation

Listen to how deep his tone is; his rhythmic security; melodic craftsmanship and the pure beauty of his music.

12 thoughts on “Doc DeHaven

  1. Barry M.

    I still remember Doc from High School Band at Monona Grove. I played trumpet there during the late 60″s. I remember Doc leaving the podium after starting a piece. He would come up behind us and hit us in the stomach to make sure we were playing from our diaphragms and not our cheeks. He was a great teacher and a great guy.

  2. John Russo

    I remember Doc’s outstanding musicianship, & his patience with me as I struggled to find myself during grad school on the GI Bill in Madison. This during its transitional(often turbulent) Madison late 70s. Lot of wise guys were around then from the 60s, both from the street 60s leftovers + even the establishment.. I had an exciting group that played a Greek Restaurant @ State & Gilman once a week for few years. There, Doc alternated with another trumpet player. We made some great music.
    When I moved back to my home area of Central New York, Doc bravely wrote an excellent letter of recommendation, helping land me a teaching position, getting back onto a somewhat more stable life, this until I might find a way to play music, make a simple living in a small city setting. Using the lessons (musical/life & business)I learned in Madison, many from from him, proved very valuable to my survival as a musician/composer etc in this exceptional community of Ithaca NY.
    I have not heard from Dov for a while.
    My best wishes to Doc/Kelly Mrs D etc.
    Johnny Russo

  3. Lauren

    I was among the last lucky group of kids that had Doc as a band director at Monona Grove. The man changed the direction of my life! As a clarinet player at school, but a Soprano player for the CapitolAires, he was the first to make the suggestion that I play trumpet. I went on to play at State and get a 1st place ribbon in a brass choir playing piccolo trumpet. That would not have happened has Doc not believed in me. Amazing, wonderful, unforgettable man!

  4. Ed. Spitaletta

    I met Doc DeHaven in 1951 when we were in the US AirForce Band. There was a breakout dance band from the AirForce Concert and Marching Band and that’s where his talent was apparent. What a musician and he was only about 20 years old. I was transferred out in 1953 to an AirForce Band in Okinawa and that’s the last I saw or heard him. Sorry to hear he is no longer playing. Being a mediocre musician I left music and went into the business world where I am today.

  5. Eric Plahna

    My buddies and I (UW-Whitewater music majors-trumpet)would drive over to Madison to see Doc at the Pirate Ship in the late ’60s. Also, at at bar in Whitewater called the Brass Rail, we wore out a 45 in the jukebox of “The Preacher”. I have been looking for a Doc DeHaven recording of “The Preacher”… coming up empty… wonder if you would have any information that would lead me to that recording?

    He and his music are a strong part of the nostalgia of our college years…

    1. Warren Fremling

      Eric! So great to see your name after all these years! I don’t have the answer to your inquiry, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to say “Hi” to a classmate from Whitewater! All best to you and yours! Warren “Corky” Fremling

  6. Chris Nelson

    Thanks for this Dave. I took lessons from Doc in the mid-70’s. A great teacher and always showed a real love for music.

  7. Scott Johnston

    My friend Jim Tifft and I used to sneak in to the Pirate Ship and watch Doc play (Jim studied trumpet with Doc). He was one of the main jazz attractions in Madison and I really enjoyed hearing him play!

  8. Melissa Kansa

    Doc was one of my band directors at MGHS and I thought of him as my daughter starts Jazz Band at her middle school. Loved finding your article about him. My brother, Joe Schindlbeck, also played with Kelly in a group when in college. Doc also played our wedding which was a wonderful experience.

  9. Ann Barker

    I relayed a story about Doc at a small group gathering for our church, in Delta Colorado. The topic was how to be more inclusive, add more spark to the general church membership. I was a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Madison WI) and at Christmas time Doc gathered a few of us “used to be’s” for a pick up band. Imagine a man of his caliber, leading some of us who hadn’t picked up that high school instrument in decades, but we did it. And I can always say, in jest of course, I jammed with Doc DeHaven!

  10. Rita Bramley

    Doc was great. He was my first band teacher at Wiinequah Middle School in Monona. It was so amazing to see him play a simple scale along with a bunch of kids. He made you feel important to the whole band even if you were only 12 years old.
    Thanks for everything Doc.

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