A Great Drummer and a Real Mensch!

Ed Shaughnessy, left, performing with Buddy Rich in 1978.
Published: May 26, 2013


The New York Times reports:

Ed Shaughnessy, whose deft drumming anchored the “Tonight Show” orchestra for 29 years, died on Friday at his home in Calabasas, Calif. He was 84.

The cause was a heart attack, said his son Dan.

Mr. Shaughnessy was a well-traveled and highly regarded jazz drummer when he was offered the “Tonight” job in 1963, shortly after Johnny Carson had taken over as the show’s host. He had performed or recorded with Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday and numerous others. He had also worked for four years as a staff musician at CBS Television, and, remembering the tedium of that studio job, he was not sure he wanted another.

He agreed to take the “Tonight” gig for two weeks and see how he liked it. “When I got up there,” he recalled in a 2004 interview for the Percussive Arts Society, “and Doc Severinsen was the lead trumpet player, Clark Terry was sitting next to me in the jazz trumpet chair, and there were all these great players, I said, ‘My God, this is not your ordinary studio situation.’ ”

Mr. Shaughnessy took the job and never left. He remained when Mr. Severinsen replaced Skitch Henderson as the bandleader in 1967 and when “The Tonight Show” moved from New York City to Burbank, Calif., in 1972. When Jay Leno became the host in 1992 and brought in his own band, Mr. Severinsen kept his ensemble together for concert appearances, with Mr. Shaughnessy still in the drum chair.



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