While most of us are still railing after the Conan/NBC/Leno debacle, plans are still underway for Leno’s return to the illustrious Tonight Show host position on March 1st. However, not all is smooth sailing with the show. Word is coming in that band leader Kevin Eubanks, who served as Leno’s “number 1” for a massive 17 years, will be leaving the show along with announcer John Melendez.
Eubanks originally planned to remain on as Leno’s bandleader when he returned to the Tonight Show, but it looks like he’s now having a change of heart. From Variety:
Eubanks is said to be interested in returning to touring and working out a flexible schedule with the “Tonight Show.” Whether that means he’ll leave for good — or take lengthy leaves of absence, as Conan O’Brien band leader Max Weinberg did to tour with Bruce Springsteen — has not yet been worked out, NBC insiders said.
Eubanks joined the “Tonight Show” band in 1992, and replaced Branford Marsalis as band leader in 1995. When Leno moved to “The Jay Leno Show,” Eubanks became the leader of the renamed “Primetime Band.”
NBC has not yet looked for Eubanks’ replacement. (An online rumor that Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker would replace him was quickly shot down by all involved.) As for Melendez, he took on a behind-the-scenes role as writer, and will continue that position.