The drumming world lost one of its greatest ambassadors when Ed Shaughnessy died of a heart attack in Calabasas, California on May 24. He was 84 years old.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Shaughnessy was best known for his 30-year gig as the drummer in the Tonight Show Band during Doc Severinson’s tenure. After playing the New York City jazz circuit, the drummer became a staff drummer for CBS in the 1950s, and played with such big band legends as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. He was playing with Count Basie in the ’60s when he took the job on the Tonight Show.
While widely regarded as a big band drummer and early double-bass innovator, Shaughnessy also played in smaller ensembles with such artists as Gene Ammons, Roy Eldridge, Billie Holiday, Mundell Lowe, Teo Macero, Charles Mingus, Shirley Scott, Jack Sheldon, and Horace Silver, and spent time as the house drummer at the legendary New York City jazz spot Birdland.
Shaughnessy retired from the Tonight Show in 1992 when Jay Leno took Johnny Carson’s was a role as the show’s host, although he never retired from drumming. He published his memoirs, Lucky Drummer – From NYC To Johnny Carson last year. A tireless clinician and educator, Shaughnessy was frequent face at drumming festivals and trade shows. Despite suffering from poor health, he performed a clinic at the 2012 Chicago Drum Show.
What’s more – Ed Shaughnessy was one of the nicest, most open hearted, and infinitely approachable drumming legends that has ever lived. He will forever stand as an example to us all.