This past Monday, Kevin Eubanks, Jay Leno’s band leader for the past fifteen years, confirmed that he would be leaving The Tonight Show on May 28 in order to pursue other musical opportunities.
“After 18 years, I just need a change of pace and see what else is going on, but it’s a really difficult decision because this has become my second home, as it has been for the band, and I love the audience and the American people really love the show and it’s been a wonderful experience to be here.”
Following the announcement, Leno told Eubanks that working with him had been “a pleasure,” and that he has been “…a great friend and really supportive.” Leno then continued by saying, “When those jokes die, I gotta look to you man.”
While Eubanks has been the band leader since 1995, he has, in fact, been a part of Jay Leno’s band since Leno took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992. It wasn’t until Leno’s original band leader, Branford Marsalis, stepped down three years later that Eubanks was eventually promoted.
Being the musician that I am (I dabble on the recorder), I completely understand the need to spread your proverbial wings – but does Eubanks really need to quit one of the best musical jobs in show business in order to do it?
Nobody is going to dispute that doing a live show seven nights a week can take a lot out of you, but it’s not like he’s putting in 12-hour days. At this point, Eubanks has the job down to a science. He probably doesn’t get into work until 1pm, at the earliest, to prep for that day’s show and is done by 6pm, following the 4pm taping.
Putting in a 25-hour work week (my best guestimate) doesn’t exactly fill one’s schedule. In fact, one-time Tonight Show announcer John Melendez managed to write produce and star in the film National Lampoon Presents: One, Two, Many while still working his day gig for Leno. Granted, the film was terrible, but even crap movies take time to make.
What makes Eubanks’ departure even more odd is that during his tenure at The Tonight Show, he has released twelve albums. Yes, I said twelve. I dare you to name one.
I’m not saying this to undermine Eubanks as a musician, but considering he was able to release that many albums, does he really need to leave his high-paying job in order to pursue other opportunities? The saying “don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth” comes to mind…
Of course, I could be wrong… look at the other Tonight Show employees that left to pursue other opportunities – like Ed Hall (Who? Exactly!).
Catch Eubanks’ final Tonight Show run, weeknights @11:35pm, on NBC
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Source: Hollywood Reporter