It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of a true Ludwig Legend: the great Ed Shaughnessy. A mammoth talent with a swing as grand as his personality, Ed was a true master of the instrument. Having filled the drum chair on "The Tonight Show" for 29 years, his monster playing, quick wit, and dedication to percussive education inspired generations of
Fellow-Ludwig artist Vinnie Colaiuta had this to say in tribute: "A legend has left us, with a huge void that can't be filled, excepting with the amazing legacy he's left us. What a giant. I grew up with Ed. His influence was felt by me since I was a child. Yes, I was that fortunate to have that permeate my psyche. To have been exposed to that model of excellence night after night for year after year, is a true blessing. So many of us are familiar with him through "The Tonight Show", as if that isn't enough. Yet the scope of his body of work is staggering. That is a great example of a role model as well. May his legacy continue to inspire us always,
me may he rest in peace."
Edwin Thomas Shaughnessy was born in Jersey City on Jan. 29, 1929, the only child of Tom Shaughnessy, a longshoreman, and the former Theresa Geetlein, a garment worker. A well-traveled and highly regarded jazz drummer when he was offered the "Tonight" job in 1963, Ed had already performed or recorded with Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday and numerous others.
He agreed to take the "Tonight" gig for two weeks and see how he liked it. "When I got up there," he recalled in a 2004 interview for the Percussive Arts Society, "and Doc Severinsen was the lead trumpet player, Clark Terry was sitting next to me in the jazz trumpet chair, and there were all these great players, I said, 'My God, this is not your ordinary studio situation.' " He took the job and never left, remaining until Jay Leno became the host in 1992 and brought in his own band. Mr. Severinsen kept his ensemble together for concert appearances in the years that followed, with Mr. Shaughnessy still in the drum chair.
Though we feel genuine grief in his passing, comfort can be taken in the fact that his personal attention to his craft and to the many that followed him will live on. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and to the drumming community he cherished. So long Ed, you'll be sorely missed.