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Ed Shaughnessy, Longtime ‘Tonight Show’ Drummer, Dead at 84

Also had a busy side career as big band player and session man

Ed Shaughnessy
Ed Shaughnessy

Ed Shaughnessy, the drummer who was seen nearly every night for close to three decades as a member of Doc Severinsen’s band on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, died May 24 in Calabasas, Calif. The cause was a heart attack. Shaughnessy was 84.

In addition to his highly visible television platform, Shaughnessy was also recognized as an in-demand big band and bebop drummer, working with such leaders as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Mundell Lowe, Don Ellis and others. Shaughnessy’s epic 1978 drum battle with Buddy Rich on the Carson show has become the stuff of legend, garnering over 100,000 YouTube views. Shaughnessy is also credited with discovering singer-pianist Diane Schuur.

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