Tonight Show Drummer Shaughnessy Dead at 84
Another member of late night television history has passed away with the news that jazz drummer Ed Shaughnessy, who performed on “The Tonight Show” for almost 30 years, is dead at the age of 84. Shaughnessy’s death was unexpected as he succumbed to a sudden heart attack at his residence in the Los Angeles area.
Although he had a wide-ranging career in music, Shaughnessy’s fans knew him best as a member of Doc Severinsen’s band on the “Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson. A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, Shaughnessy was first exposed to music when taking piano lessons as a teenager and began studying the drums at the age of 14.
After performing in numerous big bands led by such music legends as Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie and Benny Goodman, he was hired at the CBS Television network to work for the likes of Steve Allen and Gary Moore.
He was a member of the “Tonight Show” band from 1963 through 1992 and later wrote a memoir of his life as a studio musician called “Lucky Drummer.” Shaughnessy also kept busy as a teacher who nurtured new musical talent and was responsible for helping blind singer Dianne Schuur gain national exposure.
In 2004, Shaughnessy was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. His wife, the former Ilene Woods, a voice actor who was the voice of Disney’s “Cinderella” during the 1950s, preceded him in death three years ago. He is survived by one son and three grandchildren.
Here’s a recent interview with Shaughnessy, conducted by his granddaughter Amandah Eden, in which the New Jersey-raised drummer speaks of being mentored by bassist George Duvivier and drummer Big Sid Catlett, among others. The clip concludes with some footage from a 1978 Tonight Show drum battle between Shaughnessy and Buddy Rich:
Shaughnessy was performing as recently as a year ago, as seen in this clip from the 2012 Chicago Drum Show:
Shaughnessy was the drummer on this 1953 Chuck Wayne disc track Butterfingers, a contrafact on Cherokee:
Ed Shaughnessy dies