Posts Tagged ‘JOHNNY CARSON’


Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Perhaps Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Ringo Starr were more famous, but no drummer in music history was more visible than Ed Shaughnessy. With rare exception, he appeared on network television five nights per week for an astounding 29 years, as the drummer in the big band led by Carl “Doc” Severinsen for “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

In his new autobiography, “Lucky Drummer: From NYC Jazz to Johnny Carson,” written with Robyn Flans, Shaugnessy tells of his decades with Doc, the jazz years that led up to that fabled gig, of the stars of jazz and jazz drumming with whom he’s worked, and of a personal life that, in some cases, just wasn’t easy.

The book, like its author, is a charmer. “Lucky Drummer” is touching, funny, informative and educational, honest though not brutally so, and at times heartbreaking. “Lucky Drummer” also serves as a guidebook for anyone who plays, or has wanted to play, drums professionally.

Though he claims he wasn’t really a percussion innovator or ground-breaker, the fact is, the pre-“Tonight Show” Shaughnessy backed some of the most progressive players in jazz. Those included vibist Teddy Charles, the larger-than-life bassist/composer Charles Mingus, tenor saxophonist-turned-Miles Davis-producer Teo Macero, odd time signature master Don Ellis, sitar player Ravi Shankar and tabla artist Alla Rakha, and the entire Marsalis Family.

On the more traditional end of the spectrum, the author played and recorded with Basie, Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, JImmy Smith, Quincy Jones, Billie Holiday and dozens of others. What a resume! The names on these lists, by the way, do not include the hundreds of players and singers he accompanied during his tenure on “The Tonight Show.”

Those in the the business, as well as the hundreds of students he’s taught and mentored, can attest that, along with his friend Louie Bellson, Ed Shaughnessy remains one of the nicest people out there, in any field.

Naturally, he shares plenty of stories about “the cats.” And he could have easily been negative about several of them, but as always, he’s taken the high road. His yarns about Anita O’Day, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, Jimi Hendrix, Mingus and Miles are often hilarious. The author could have been a lot more harsh when writing about how he was treated by a nasty Ray Charles. As is his wont, Shaughnessy goes relatively easy on “the genius.”

Especially gratifying is the space he gives to saxophonist/bandleader Charlie Ventura, Shaughnessy’s first “big name” employer. Ventura, almost forgotten now, was one of the biggest stars in jazz from the mid-1940s through the latter 1950s. This is the first book that deservedly addresses Ventura’s talents and contributions.

As of this writing, Ed Shaughnessy is 83 years old and is still out there playing, and playing very well. And after all these years, as he says, “The door is open, any time you see me and would like to talk. I’ve always been that way, and I will always be that way. I really love to talk with–and help, if I can–any younger musicians who come my way. I never forget that everybody did it for me.”

Due credit must be given Rob Cook of Rebeats for publishing an essential, must-read work.

Book Beat and Drum Beatings: March, 2011

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

In between snow storms and my contributions to Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Fresh Sound Records and, I’ve spent a good part of the winter reading just about every new celebrity biography and autobiography published in recent months.

It is heartening to realize that, despite reports to the contrary and the problem with the Borders book chain, that the publishing business is alive and well, though I continue to register disappointment that Gunter Schuller’s follow-up to The Swing Era, Gary Giddins’ Bing Crosby Volume Two, and an in-print version of The Encyclopedia of Jazz have yet to see the light of day.

Jazz-wise, as always, the pickings have been rather slim book-wise. Last year, there was an under-publicized, semi-privately published work on Maynard Ferguson that almost no one heard of. This season, there is yet another work—and it’s superb– on the still-controversial Stan Kenton; a very disappointing tome on Louis Prima and Keely Smith that relies mainly on previously published material; a landmark “encyclopedia” on jazz and pop singers written by the prolific Will Friedwald; and a hilarious and informative autobio by percussion industry giant Lennie DiMuzio.

In the celebrity sector, it appears that anyone who is—or was—anyone, has written a book or has had a book written about them. Some of those names include Gypsy Rose Lee, Dionne Warwick, Michael Caine, Karen Carpenter, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Kitty (“The Parasite”) Kelly’s expected hatchet job on Oprah Winfrey, Sal Mineo, Natalie Cole, Pat Cooper (!), Marlo Thomas, Dick Cavett, and two, absolutely ridiculous works on Humphrey Bogart and Merv Griffin that focus more on the principals’ genital size than fact.

I probably missed a few, but I always maintained that the publishing business would enter the realm of the certifiable absurdity when John (“Roland”) Zacherly, Soupy Sales and Joey Bishop had books written about them. Well, check Zacherly, Sales and Bishop, as well as such luminaries as Arthur Godfrey and Jack Webb all have books in release with their names on the cover. At least Webb was a big jazz fan. Actually, so was Soupy, rest his soul.

The legendary Lennie Tristano wrote a letter to Down Beat magazine in the late 1960s, saying, in effect, that he thought Diana Ross was the greatest jazz singer who ever lived. Presumably, he was quite taken with her vocalizing in the ludicrous film based on the life of Billie Holiday, titled “Lady Sings the Blues.” Whatever Tristano played and/or said should never be taken lightly, though it’s sad that Ross never realized her potential as a jazz singer.

To these ears, another vocalist who, tragically, never got the chance to realize her potential was the late Karen Carpenter, subject of one of this year’s most incisive bios. Carpenter, I believe, had it all, and had she lived and gotten away from recording the bubble gum dreck that made her famous, I think she could have been one of the great ones. After all, if Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand have recorded what the press describes as “jazz albums,” there’s no reason why Carpenter could not have as well.

There is also yet another bio out on one Frank Sinatra. I’ve only read bits and pieces of it and some reviews. But according to those who have read it, there’s really nothing new to be learned about the man. I don’t know what kinds of dirt these folks are after. It’s all been said before, anyway. As Mr. S. himself once said, “Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.

The problem with the Borders book chain is unfortunate but not unexpected. Like Tower Records and several video chains that appear to be on the way out, storefront retails just can’t compete with an internet giant like It’s a matter of retail space. Borders, Tower or Blockbuster cannot stock thousands and thousands of new and used titles. Amazon has, with rare exception, what appears to be virtually every book written in the past 25 years, and practically every CD ever recorded. And the products are delivered to the customers’ door within days. Believe me, Amazon’s shipping charge is much less than what we’re being asked to pay for gas these days.

Certainly, browsing at the book store, record store or video store was and in some cases still is a pleasant pastime, and nothing compares to being able to actually hold the product before it’s purchased. But look how we get a good deal of our information today and look how we communicate with each other today. It is no longer 1995 out there, and it is all together fitting and proper that the way we buy almost everything these days has also changed.

While Amazon’s selection of jazz materials is admirable—and potential buyers often have the opportunity to get a used copy of a book, DVD or CD at a reduced price—few internet retailers can beat the inventory carried by I’ve mentioned them before, but what they have available, whether books, orchestrations, instructional materials, CDs and DVDs is just remarkable. And if you’re seeking stellar, first-class reissues of the great jazz recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, on labels ranging from Verve to Contemporary, a visit to is a must.

In another media event, it has been impossible to ignore the hype surrounding the fact that this is talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s final season. Of course, she won’t be off the scene at all, and has recently launched her own cable television network.

What Winfrey has done for broadcasting, for women and for all types of charitable causes has been nothing short of remarkable. And the skewering she received from author Kitty Kelly is unforgivable. In that realm, at least Winfrey is in good company.

However, those of us in the jazz community would be remiss if we didn’t comment on Winfrey’s relationship to jazz. There is none.
Fawning over Streisand and a bunch of other popsters is great, but couldn’t Winfrey spare a couple of minutes to Wynton Marsalis or any one of thousands of lesser known jazz artists? The only guest on Winfrey’s program through the years who was even remotely associated with jazz was Quincy Jones, and he abandoned his jazz roots years ago.

Incidentally, if Oprah Winfrey has played host to jazz musicians through the years, I must have missed those programs and I stand respectfully corrected. If anyone has such a list, you know how to contact me.

Talk shows haven’t been particularly kind to jazz though the years—let’s face it, jazz has rarely been a television ratings bonanza—but even hosts like Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Dick Cavett, David Frost, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas regularly booked jazz musicians as guests. Some of those players, through the years, included names like Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Joe Williams, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Max Roach Louie Bellson, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Benny Goodman and many more. Bill Cosby regularly had jazz musicians as guests on his various programs.

Maybe we need an organization today akin to the famed, “Jazz and the People’s Movement,” founded decades ago by the likes of Roland Kirk and Charles Mingus. Remember when they stormed various talk shows—and even The Ed Sullivan Show—demanding exposure for jazz?

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be associated with Modern Drummer, albeit on a limited basis right now. I think I’m one of the few writers who have contributed to MD since its inception, in my case, from their second issue. Look for my pieces this spring and summer on drumming legends Rufus Jones and Nick Fatool, among others.

Andy Kahn has been a producer and composer of hit records—remember “Hot Shot” from 1978?– recording studio owner and engineer, discoverer of new talent, entrepreneur, philanthropist, recording artist and first-rate jazz pianist, among other things. Above all, we have been friends for close to 50 years. Andy has been working on his memoirs this winter, and it hasn’t surprised me that he’s also quite the writer. I am touched and honored that he has asked me to contribute some of my editing talents to this work. Though still not totally complete—watch this space for updates—I can tell you first-hand that this book will be, like it’s subject, a remarkable work and will be a must-read for anyone interested in the entertainment business and the human spirit.

As always, I invite you to contact me directly at Thank you for your continued support, encouraging words and understanding. Above all, keep swingin! — Bruce Klauber


Monday, June 16th, 2008

For various reasons, I am making my invaluable Buddy Rich collection of VHS tapes and DVDs available for very quick sale. These are not copies or duplicates, nor are they being sold on ebay or any other web site. They were purchased at great expense some years ago, and the time has come to move on. Please contact me directly at and/or 215-620-5227. Serious inquiries only. Here is a rundown of what is available:



These DVDs were recorded directly from VHS tapes purchased from the Cavett offices, cut from their masters, which no longer exist. These are the entire 90-minute programs with Buddy playing and talking, in great, great quality.

One hour tribute to Buddy Rich, starring Buddy Rich and his entire big band, along with musical / showbiz associates Redd Foxx, Mel Torme’, Henny Youngman, and veteran dancer Jack Ackerman. This was taped directly from the television broadcast–which has never been re-broadcast, by the way–via Betamax in 1979. Buddy talks about his career, sings, dances and plays. This is a gem. The Griffin vaults do not have material that goes back this far.

One of the rarest clips of Buddy in the universe, this is in black and white with small time code at bottom of the screen. Surprisingly good quality, though not broadcast quality ala the Cavett, Griffin and other Carson shows.

All programs are complete, uncut, 90 minute, color programs, duplicated from the salt-mine-stored Carson masters. All were purchased directly from Carson Productions. Buddy Rich guests on all programs.
November 29, 1972
September 5, 1973
January 15, 1974
February 19, 1975
April 22, 1975
November 6, 1975
April 13, 1976
June 25, 1976
Note: One of these is a drum battle with Louis Bellson.


My sincerest thanks to all of you who have sent your prayers and good wishes in line with my recent diagnosis of malignant melanoma. The good news is that I am doing just fine, and that what I had was and is the most superficial form of this condition. I am healing well here in Naples, FL, though I do face a period of reconstruction and/or plastic surgery. It’s a shame I’m selling all the Buddy Rich material. I’m starting to look like him.


Staten Island’s one and only Robert Bierman was collecting and making a data base of Krupa materials long before a lot of us were around. He continues to be kind and generous with his stellar collection and has just shared a wonderful grouping of film clips that we’re calling “Book Revue and More.” “Book Revue,” of course, is the famed, 1940s, Warner Bros. cartoon that is highlighted by animated representations of Goodman, James, Sinatra, Krupa and many more. It’s here in its entirety and in full color. Also on the reel are very rare excerpts from the “World of Benny Goodman” TV documentary of the early 1960s with comments from Gene and various others, extensive interviews with Louis Bellson and Lionel Hampton prior to their participation in the Krupa tribute performance at The Felt Forum in 1974, a Gene Krupa Story trailer in mint condition, trailers for “Ball of Fire,” “The Gang’s All Here,” “Girl Crazy” and much, much more. This is a must-have.


You may notice that the web site has undergone more changes. Our goal is to make the site as easy to use as possible, while presenting the most accurate information about new and old product, as well as providing a forum for your suggestions and opinions. Let us know what you think.

Until then, keep swingin’
Bruce Klauber
June, 1008

Johnny Carson and Jazz

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

The late and great Steve Allen, originator of the “Tonight Show” format, was well known as a jazz fan, friend to jazz musicians and a pretty decent jazz pianist. Few remember that Allen really went out on the television limb in the mid-fifties by booking folks like Billie Holiday, Lenny Bruce, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and many others. 

Johnny Carson, who died Sunday at the age of 79, will be remembered as the quintessential talk show host, comic and interviewer, but Carson also continued Steve Allen’s legacy of using the power of television to further the cause of jazz. An amateur drummer since childhood, Carson was more than a fan. He supported the music and the musicians publicly and privately. 

As one rather spectacular example, it was Johnny Carson who helped jazz drummer Buddy Rich become a star again, at a time when a 50-year-old Buddy Rich and big bands were considered old hat. Carson opened up his program to Buddy and Buddy’s new big band, beginning around 1966, and helped garner an entire new audience of all ages for “Buddy Rich: caustic comic and world’s greatest drummer.” Rich always credited Johnny Carson for reviving his career, and as thanks, awarded Johnny with a brand new set of drums. Carson loved Buddy Rich as a person and worshipped him as a player. When I was in the midst, along with the Rich Estate, of writing and producing a video tribute to the great drummer, there was nothing Carson wouldn’t do for us. 

“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” was, of course, an entertainment program. Hard core jazz fans, naturally, didn’t think it should be that way. Years ago, I vividly recall the jazz purists saying that Carson’s conception of jazz was Dixielanders Al Hirt and Pete Fountain, entertaining players who were booked frequently. But what my purist colleagues (yes, I was one) didn’t know, was that booked along side a Pete Fountain or Al Hirt would be someone like jazz singer Joe Williams (booked over 50 times), or Sarah Vaughan (booked over 20 times). 

The other argument, in line with television’s always-at-a-distance relationship to jazz, was that a program like Carson’s only booked the most “popular” jazz players, i.e., Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, etc. Where were the likes of the more creative players like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Freddie Hubbard and the Modern Jazz Quartet? For the record, let it be said that each and every one of these players made at least one “Tonight Show” appearance. Dizzy Gillespie was on at least a dozen times. Wynton Marsalis made his first television appearances at Johnny Carson’s insistence. You can look it up. Gene Krupa was on two times that we know of, and rumors continue to abound that Gene and Buddy actually had their famed drum battle on the “Tonight Show.” 

Carson’s show was the last to feature what was called a “big band” as the house orchestra, with jazz as its common language. While players like Carl “Doc” Severinson and Tommy Newsome played the stooge on camera, the record will show that they were and are top, jazz-oriented players who staffed “The Tonight Show” orchestra with the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived, from Ed Shaughnessy and Grady Tate to Pete Condoli and Ernie Watts. Whether they were backing a comic, a vocal duo or Buddy Rich, the always swung. They’re still on the road and still swinging under “Doc’s” leadership. 

I doubt whether Johnny Carson ever thought he would be credited with these considerable contributions. But the record speaks for itself, and the careers of many jazz people would be considerably less were it not for him. The jazz world will miss him. 

Postscript: After reading this article, arranger John LaBarbara commented, “Few people really knew how good a friend Johnny Carson was to jazz and to jazz musicians.” 

“Tonight Show” drummer Ed Shaughnessy took a copy of this piece to Doc Severinson, while they were both on a “Tonight Show” band gig in Spokane Washington on Thursday, January 27th. Shortly after, Doc and Ed got a call from the David Letterman people, saying they were flying Doc, Ed and Tommy Newsome out to New York city to participate in a tribute to Johnny Carson that aired on the Letterman program last everning, January 31st. 

This article is now appearing on the web site of the Berman Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the music and musicians of Nebraska, Johnny Carson’t birthplace; and it will also appear in the next issue of “Not So Modern Drummer” magazine. 

The piece was not written to gain attention, or publicity of any kind. Indeed, it was sent out privately to friends and colleagues in the music industry. I had no idea so many people felt the same way I did. 

Keep swingin’ 

Bruce Klauber