b. 28 September 1924, Harlem, New York City, New York, USA, d. 21 February 2008, Mayer, Arizona, USA. After hearing Chick Webb at the Apollo theatre Zelnick was inspired to play drums, first in a neighbourhood drum corps. At the age of 12 he won a citywide schools drumming championship and later studied at the Juilliard School of Music. Zelnick played while in the US Army during World War II and at the end of the 40s joined Benny Goodman’s bebop band. In this band were Wardell Gray and Stan Hasselgård. Zelnick also recorded in the 50s with Eddie Bert, Lenny Hambro and Marian McPartland.
From the 60s Zelnick was a studio musician, often at Capitol Records, backing artists including Nat ‘King’ Cole, Peggy Lee and Patti Page, and he also recorded with Ray Charles. Zelnick operated a music store in California before moving to Arizona, eventually retiring from full-time music although he taught and occasionally played at civic functions. In 2005, at the 5th Annual Jazz Summit held in Prescott, Arizona, 26 August was declared Mel Zelnick Day.