Billy Higgins & Shelly Manne Duet September 23, 1984 Watts Towers


Shelly Manne & Billy Higgins, September 23, 1984| Photo: Mark Weber

“Memory is something we all wonder about — as time goes by, what one remembers or wants to remember may be different from what really happened.” –Toshiko Akiyoshi

She is speaking about her composition “Memory” and goes on to say how she tried to “capture that feeling of distance from reality, to crystalize that abstraction in a certain way…..”

09weber-R1-E005350versionMemory is a faulty mechanism. Whenever I think of the 1984 Day of the Drum Festival at Watts Towers I swear that I remember three trap drummers on stage playing together — Billy Higgins – Philly Joe Jones – Shelly Manne. I have even told people that I saw these 3 play together that day. But, photos don’t lie. And none of my negatives from that event show anything but Shelly & Billy playing duets. And the program says only Shelly & Billy played together that day and that Philly Joe played duets with Tootie Heath earlier in the day but I don’t remember that at all. The program guide also says that Max Roach gave a workshop and I know that didn’t happen. I did photo Philly Joe just standing around with Joe Farrell, so he was there. And Papa Jo Jones was there, I have photos of him being wheeled around in his wheelchair by Billy Higgins. I’ll have to find those shots so Klaus can put them up at Metropolis. MEANWHILE, check these photos out! I sure wish they would have recorded this event. It was smokin. Drum duets are the most. If I was a concert producer I’d have drum duets on the bill every week. And Shelly & Billy they knocked a hole in the clouds. Alas, this was a Sunday afternoon and Shelly died the following Wednesday. The news was all over the radio. Nobody could believe it. In the tremendous book SHELLY MANNE — SOUNDS OF THE DIFFERENT DRUMMER bio-discography by Jack Brand & Bill Korst they quote Shelly’s wife Flip saying that Shelly joked before the duet, “He’s going to waste me,” and then she goes on to say how Shelly played like a kid possessed.

Mark Weber | Albuquerque 25nov09


Billy Higgins & Shelly Manne, September 23, 1984| Photo: Mark Weber


Shelly Manne drum cases stacked in hallway at United-Western Studios, Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, April 29, 1980 (he had a session the next day with Benny Carter) (I was there for the Billy Harris – Horace Tapscott recording session that became the cd I WANT SOME WATER (Nimbus West Records) | Photo: Mark Weber


Let me explain something about why Shelly’s drum cases are in the hallway there at United-Western. In the Hollywood studio business there are cartage companies that specialize in delivering gear to the studios. Mostly keyboard players, guitarists, and drummers use them. The guitarist Michael Anthony, who now lives in Albuquerque, who worked the studios 1965-1980 (he’s the ukulele on “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”) says he had a roll-around case as big as a closet, full of guitars and pedals and his git-banjo, his git-sitar, &c. He quite regularly had three sessions a day and he’d call the cartage company and tell them which studios to deliver his closet of guitars, and the same for Shelly. He probably had 2 or 3 drumkits at the cartage company, as well as various percussion. Hence, his Set # 1 was there at the studio the night before the recording session with Benny Carter. United-Western has gone through some changes, nowadays. It was Cello Studios during the late 90s (?) and just recently Western was tore down (they were two identical buildings standing next to each other on Sunset Boulevard) and some big new studio erected in its place.


click the above images to enlarge…


  1. Gary Foster

    I have looked into the Metropolis site several times and I am glad to have more photos of the Manne – Higgins duet. I wasn’t there but I worked with Shelly at Fox studios the next morning, a Monday I remember. Your discussion of his death occurring so soon after that Sunday suddenly brought back a flood of memories. On that Monday we worked on a TV score and, during a long piece on which neither of us played, we sat in the coffee room and talked. As we got up to go back to work, Shelly said: “You know that quartet recording we made (?)…. I just listened to it again and it really holds up!” We went back into the studio with our arms around each other and I was deeply moved by his remark.

    A few years earlier, when Cal Tjader died in the Phillipines – on a trip which I had asked Cal if I could skip – Shelly phoned early one morning with the news of Cal’s death, saying that he didn’t want me to hear the news on the radio. I can’t remember who phoned with news of Shelly’s death. I thought of his gesture in calling me and I phoned a number of NY friends (Konitz, Marsh, Knepper and others) with the news of his death. Shelly was not only one of history’s greatest drummers; all who knew him placed him in the very special category of, Great Man! I had many, many special musical and personal moments with him, and thinking of Shelly and Flip, I am always grateful to have been there. You opened a memory gate!



  2. Mark Weber

    It really is a small world sometimes. Michael Vlatkovich dropped in on his way through town — heading back to California after gigs in St Louis and Denver — and after dinner we were watching Star Trek Voyager DVDs when the drummer Chris Garcia called from Los Angeles to tell me that he’s in all 3 of the Shelly Manne + Billy Higgins photos at the Metropolis website ( ! ) – I didn’t know Chris at that time — we probably walked right passed each other that day — how many other people do we walk past not knowing that someday they are to become a big part of your future?

    —-mark weber

    P.S. Chris is the guy in the white muslin shirt, in the first photo at the top of the essay, he has dark hair and glasses and has his hands on his hips, at the far left of the photo, standing right in front of the stage.

    PPS: Chris remembers that Shelly, during a solo spot, did his famous coin trick where he spun a silver dollar on his floor tom. Probably not something you could find on a recording but something Shelly did in concert frequently, because Chris’ teacher John Bergamo saw Shelly do it many times.

    PPPS: Chris vouched that Philly Joe and Tootie did play duets that day, earlier, and he also confirmed that Max wasn’t there.

  3. Todd Moore

    Mark Weber’s photographs, notes, essays, remembrances, and poems are the essential, important, and necessary history of jazz. There is no one writing poetry, or anything else for that matter, who knows more about jazz than Mark Weber does.

  4. Giacomo Catanzaro

    That is interesting to see Shelly playing a Remo PTS set. I know he had Pearl’s in the 70s and Leedy’s in the 50s and 60s, but never knew about the Remo’s. Does anyone know what other sets he used? Its hard for me to tell if he always used an 18″ bass drum or did he sometimes use a 20″?

  5. Chris B

    I was at the 1984 Day of the Drum festival as a spectator and just now stumbled upon your blog. Your observations about faulty memory are interesting, because I remember that day as the only time I saw Philly Joe Jones perform, and my recollection was that I was shocked when he died only a couple of weeks after the Day of the Drum. But history tells me it was in August of the following year that Philly Joe passed. I do remember Billy Higgins there but forgot about the duet with Shelly Manne. And I could swear Panama Francis was there giving a lecture but I don’t see him on the program. (Maybe he was a last minute fill-in.) I do that remember that picture on the program cover. It was such a nice day in Watts; where did the time go? Thanks for posting this…

  6. Jazz Drummer

    I was at that at that Day of the Drum event in 1984. I lived in Los Angeles for several years in the 80s and early 90s, and that 1984 festival was within a few weeks of me arriving to L.A.. I am a jazz drummer who was familiar with all of their playing, and Shelly, Philly Joe, Billy and Tootie absolutely did play together as a quartet that day, I was there. If it wasn’t in the printed program, the quartet performance must have been an impromptu thing that worked out last minute. Coincidentally, I had heard Shelly play with his group earlier that weekend, and as I remember he told me about his upcoming appearance at the Day of the Drum. He had been kind to me in sharing his experiences and time with me at an earlier time when I was visiting California a couple of years earlier before moving there. After Shelly passed that same week as the Day of the Drum festival, I heard so many similar stories about Shelly from other drummers. He was an amazing, generous person and drummer. The four iconic drummers were across an outdoor stage, it was very hot, around 90 degrees. As a student of jazz it was a thrill to see them all on stage together. Another unrelated highlight that day was hearing Jo Jones tell stories about his career (he was in a wheel chair but was very energetic sharing his role in jazz drumming history). I ran across your site because I did a performance I did with multiple jazz drummers, and was curious to see if there was info about that day back in 1984 because that was part of my inspiration for doing my group performance.

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