Shelly Manne’s career lies mainly in West Coast jazz, although his versatility allowed him to play in various styles like Dixieland, swing, bebop, avant-garde jazz, and fusion. Mainly, though, he was known for his awesome technique and the musicality of his solos. His fellow musicians remember him as one of the warmest and most amiable people they'd ever worked with.
Born into a drumming family on June 11, 1920 in New York City, Sheldon Manne's destiny was set from the start. His father Max Manne and many of his uncles were drummers, and Shelly grew up influenced by them and all the other prominent swing drummers of the time.
Manne developed his chops in the clubs of 52nd street during the late ’30s and ’40s. As a teenager he played for bands on trans-Atlantic liners, and made his recording debut with Bobby Byrne's band in 1939. He achieved renown with the big bands of Les Brown and Stan Kenton, and also distinguished himself as a small-group player with Coleman Hawkins, George Shearing, and the L.A. Four, in addition to leading his own groups and touring with Jazz At The Philharmonic.
After moving to California, Manne did a lot of studio work in L.A., played on hundreds of West Coast jazz albums, and earned hundreds of television and movie credits that included drumming sequences in The Man With The Golden Arm with Frank Sinatra and a jazz version of My Fair Lady. He was also owner of the popular L.A. jazz club Shelly’s Manne-hole.
Manne’s playing was notable for its simplicity and strong sense of swing, as well as his signature use of definite-pitched tom-toms, which made his fills and solos especially melodic.