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“Tonight Show” Drummer Ed Shaughnessy Passes Away

An icon from the Doc Severinsen Tonight Show band era has passed away. The Los Angeles Times reports that jazz drummer Ed Shaughnessy—whom Buddy Rich referred to as “one of my all-time favorite drummers”—died of a heart attack on Friday at his Calabasas, California home. He was 84.

While he was undoubtedly best known for his 30-year stint on The Tonight Show (then hosted by Johnny Carson), playing drums for legendary bandleader Doc Severinsen, Shaughnessy enjoyed a long, diverse and high-profile career extending well beyond his television gig. He got his start sharing the stage with jazz and big-band greats such as Count Basie and Bennie Goodman; he went on to perform with a diverse roster of artists, including Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, the New York Philharmonic, and a host of others. He was already working as a CBS staff musician playing for Steve Allen and Gary Moore before he was tapped for The Tonight Show band in 1963. That same year, he married singer Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella on the Disney animated feature film—a marriage that lasted until Woods passed away in 2010.

While it’s rare that a jazz band drummer achieves such name recognition (Gene Krupa and Buddy rich, mentioned above, are also on that short list), Shaughnessy played well on television, and more than just musically. His mutton-chop sideburns became something of a trademark, and his willingness to expand into genres beyond jazz opened many doors for him, as well. Between his on-air charisma, his adaptability and his remarkable skill, Ed Shaughnessy became one of the best-known, best-loved and most in-demand drummers of his time. He will be greatly missed.


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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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