A founding father of West Coast jazz, Shelly Manne was a versatile drummer who refused to be labeled, proudly proving capable of performing any number of styles well beyond California cool, including fusion ... Read more »
A founding father of West Coast jazz, Shelly Manne was a versatile drummer who refused to be labeled, proudly proving capable of performing any number of styles well beyond California cool, including fusion, avant-garde, swing, Dixieland and bebop. Born June 11, 1920 in New York City as the son of Max Manne (himself a famous drummer), music was omnipresent in Shelly's upbringing, including a brief attempt at the saxophone before settling behind the kit once and for all. Manne began playing professionally as a teenager aboard trans-Atlantic ocean liners, leading to his first recording in 1939 as a member of Bobby Byrne's band. After serving three years in the Coast Guard from 1942-45, he returned to the scene to play alternately with both Stan Kenton and Woody Herman. In 1952, he and his wife moved to California, both to get away from the heavy drug use of the New York scene at that time, as well as to pursue a love of horses. (Manne also being well-known in the horse industry, having won awards for Standard-Bred Trotters). In addition to Hollywood studio work, Manne soon picked up several new musical colleagues experimenting with new sounds, including saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and eventually assembled Shelly Manne and his Men, among other popular groups. He later teamed with pianist Andre Previn and bassist Leroy Vinnegar in 1956 to record the first jazz album of a Broadway score, My Fair Lady, which became that year's largest-selling jazz album. Manne's television and film performance and composition credits measured in the hundreds, including high profile work on "The Gene Krupa Story" (1959); "West Side Story" (1961) and "The Pink Panther" (1963). He also taught Frank Sinatra how to pass as a jazz drummer for his heroin tale "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955). From 1962 to 1970, he also operated his own Los Angeles nightclub, Shelly's Manne-Hole. The venue was known for its top-flight combos and big bands, and became one of California's biggest jazz venues during the heyday of the west coast jazz scene. The Hollywood Arts Council declared Sept. 9, 1984 as "Shelly Manne Day." Manne died just over two weeks later of a sudden heart attack. He was 64.