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Ed Shaughnessy Dies, ‘Tonight Show’ Jazz Drummer Gone At 84

Ed Shaughnessy dies

Ed Shaughnessy died at age 84 of a heart attack on Friday in his Calabasas, California home, according to a family friend and multiple reports in social media. The legendary jazz drummer was best-known to the public at large as the iconic mutton-chop bewhiskered drummer who played for almost 30 years with Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show band.

The Los Angeles Times obituary noted that Shaughnessy wasn’t just a popular drummer. He was a ground-breaking advocate of bebop who studied international and cutting-edge music as he developed his swinging style.

Always open to teaching as well as learning, he taught over 600 music clinics to students in both high schools and colleges.

In a 2012 interview with JazzWax blogger Marc Myers, the accessible Shaughnessy talked deeply about his early influences and growing up in the Great Depression:

“I was always listening to the radio…I used to go down in our basement and practice on a muffled set of drums. My dad had brought them home when a guy who had owed him $20 paid him back that way.”

Little did the guy know that his unusual method of debt repayment would lead to a historic career.

In addition to being a highly successful jazz drummer, Shaughnessy was well-known for being approachable by young musicians who wanted to learn. As a result, I can only post a tiny sample of the outpouring of tweets left by admirers — many of whom had the honor of meeting with and talking to him:

The lessons he left for younger generations means that Ed Shaughnessy’s legacy won’t die.

[jazz photo by Koal A via Shutterstock]

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