Shelly Cohen was a musician, conductor, and musical director.
After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Cohen got a job in the NBC mailroom in New York. After several years of taking music lessons at night, Cohen was promoted to NBC music librarian (with the help of bandleader Skitch Henderson).
Cohen worked as the assistant musical director on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from October 1, 1962, when Groucho Marx introduced the new late-night host from Studio 6B at Rockefeller Center in New York, until Carson's final appearance from NBC’s Burbank Studios on May 22, 1992. Over the years, Cohen would occasionally fill in for on-air bandleaders Henderson, Milton DeLugg, Doc Severinsen, and Tommy Newsom.
A two-time Grammy nominee, Cohen also helped out on Dick Cavett's talk show for about a year while employed on The Tonight Show, wrote and produced two Christmas specials for NBC, and was a music coordinator on the Emmy Awards.
In recent years, he gave lectures around the country, telling stories about his days on The Tonight Show.
Cohen died July 25, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 84.