One of the leading figures of West Coast jazz, Shorty Rogers' decision to stop performing and switch to full-time studio work in 1962 marked the end of its golden era. Rogers played with a number of big bands in the late 1940s, and began to attract attention as an arranger while working with Woody Herman. Stan Kenton then hired him away from Herman and Rogers' compositions and arrangements for Kenton made him as much of a star as any of Kenton's soloists. Rogers left Kenton and pulled together a small group that included Art Pepper, Shelley Manne, Jimmy Giuffre, and Hampton Hawes to record Modern Sounds for Capitol. Rogers' tight and innovative arrangements on this recording are considered by many to be as influential as Gil Evans' for Miles Davis' small group on Birth of the Cool.
Rogers formed a small group he called the Giants and recorded a series of albums for RCA, including The Cool and the Crazy and Shorty Courts the Count. Marlon Brando wanted Rogers to provide the soundtrack for his movie, The Wild One, but the studio refused, hiring Leith Stevens to provide most of the score. Rogers was featured on screen, though, in Frank Sinatra's The Man With the Golden Arm, leading the jazz group Sinatra's character played with. Rogers also worked with Perez Prado on a concept album titled Voodoo Suite.
Rogers was a dramatic character but a thoroughly professional musician, and he moved to the financial security of writing for television and movies when the West Coast jazz scene began to fade in the early 1960s. He was a prolific contributor to television and to a lesser extent films through the 1980s. Among the series he scored or wrote incidental music for were The Partridge Family, The Mod Squad, The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch, and The Love Boat. His tune Chelsea Memorandum shows up in the midst of Lalo Schifrin's cuts on the second Mission: Impossible soundtrack album. He also composed and conducted the music for a number of the innovative UPA cartoons featuring the work of Theodore Geissel (Dr. Seuss) and Stan Freberg.