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In Memoriam: Ed Shaughnessy

Ed Shaughnessy passed away in his Calabasas, CA home on Friday, May 24, 2013.

Born in Jersey City, June 1929, Ed was predominantly self-taught and began to gain recognition in the New York City area during the late 1940s while working with George Shearing, Jack Teagarden, Georgie Auld and Charlie Ventura.

In the 1950s Ed’s profile grew quickly and widely playing in bands led by Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. In the 1960s he joined Count Basie’s band while continuing to work prolifically in New York City, eventually landing a long-term gig with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He joined in 1963, after working for years as a CBS staff musician on the Steve Allen and Garry Moore shows and remained with Severinsen’s band until 1992.

Perhaps most notably, Ed was the Tonight Show session drummer during Jimi Hendrix’s performance in 1969. In addition to his prolific jazz career, the Tonight Show work brought Shaughnessy together with a range of rock, pop, soul and country stars including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. The trumpeter and band-leader Don Ellis once said of Shaughnessy: “Ed’s one of the only guys I know from his generation who’s open-minded enough to try something new.”

In addition to his work on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Shaughnessy played in an early incarnation of the Sesame Street orchestra, along with percussionist Danny Epstein, reed player Wally Kane, and freelance guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Shaughnessy recorded extensively throughout his career and was known for his drum competition with Buddy Rich.

Best known as a big band drummer, Shaughnessy also lent his considerable skill to small bands by Gene Ammons, Roy Eldridge, Billie Holiday, Mundell Lowe, Teo Macero, Charles Mingus, Shirley Scott, Jack Sheldon, Horace Silver and many others. For several years he was a member of the house band at Birdland and other New York clubs. In the early 70s he was doing similar work in Los Angeles and is credited with discovering Diana Schuur, whom he introduced during the 1976 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Shaughnessy was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2004.

Rest in Peace, Ed. We’ll miss you.


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