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Shelly Cohen, Longtime Music Man on 'The Tonight Show', Dies of Pneumonia at Age 84

Updated On 05 Aug, 2018 Published On

Shelly Cohen, who served as the assistant musical director during Johnny Carson's entire run on The Tonight Show for nearly three decades and even led the band on the air once in a while, has died on July 25 at the age of 84. 

As for the cause of death, Shelly died of pneumonia at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.

Additionally, Shelly's wife Leona Cohen, to whom he was married for 64 years, told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been ill for a few days.

Born on November 8, 1933, in Brooklyn, Shelly joined NBC in the 1950s and Cohen worked on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1 October 1962 until Johnny's final appearance from Burbank Studios on 22 May 1992.

When the NBC show moved to California in 1972, Shelly came west becoming choir director of St. Mel's Church in Woodland Hills and served it for 20 years.

Two-time Grammy nominee Shelly also appeared as guest conductor with the Brentwood Symphony, the Los Angeles Pops, the Virginia Pops and the Pasadena Pops.

He founded the 80-voice New Horizon Singers and the Pacific Pops Orchestra in addition to his own band, The Swing Tones.

In addition to Leona, Shelly is survived by his sons and their wives Howard (Jeanne), Steven (Carla) and Robert (Christy); his grandchildren Sean, Rachel, Claire and Dean; and his sister Eleanor.

Rest In Peace Shelly!