Mel Zelnick is best known as a drummer who gained notoriety as a band member of jazz icon Benny Goodman in the 1950s and later as a touring recording artist for Capitol Records.
Mel Zelnick was born into a poor family to Abraham and Anna Zelnick in Harlem, NY, on September 28, 1924, and learned to play drums at the prestigious Julliard School in New York City, although he never took formal drum lessons.
Zelnick's talent and drive during his youth led him on stints as a drummer for the US Army Band during World War II, Goodman in the 1950s, and famous Capitol Records studio artists such as Peggy Lee in the 1960s.
He also played for Grammy award-winning pop vocalist Patti Page, legendary rhythm and blues singer Ray Charles and well-known jazz singer-songwriter Nat King Cole in the middle part of the 20th century.
Mel Zelnick and many of the drummers he played with in the Army went on to perform with jazz greats, including Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey's drummer, Pete Voulo, was Mel's best friend.
Mel Zelnick said he learned the most about percussion from watching and listening to jazz drumming legends Buddy Rich, Chick Webb and Gene Krupa during his childhood.
The drummer died Thursday morning February 21, 2008 of a heart attack. He was 83 years old. For several years, Zelnick had struggled with his health after undergoing heart bypass surgery. To breathe efficiently, he had used a portable oxygen tank inside his residence.