Ed Shaughnessy, drummer for "The Tonight Show," dies at 84

A longtime friend of the drummer said you could always see Ed Shaughnessy's "smile behind the (drum) kit."

Story highlights

  • Ed Shaughnessy played drums for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" for 30 years
  • He had battled with Buddy Rich, played with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald
  • "You always saw the smile behind the kit," a close friend says
Ed Shaughnessy, the longtime drummer for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," has died, a close friend said Sunday. He was 84.
Robyn Flans, a close friend of 30 years and the co-writer of his memoir, "Lucky Drummer," said the iconic musician suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in Calabasas, California, Friday morning.
During Shaughnessy's 30 years with Carson, he became known for his drum battles with frequent guest Buddy Rich. Those battles can still be seen in clips on YouTube.
He also played with such jazz greats as Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett and showed his versatility by accompanying sitar master Ravi Shankar. On "The Tonight Show," Shaughnessy even played with Jimi Hendrix.