Kevin Eubanks will say farewell to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight, ending his 18-year reign as leader of The Tonight Show band. Eubanks — who will also be Friday musical guest — says he’s leaving the late night scene to turn his focus back to his recording career.
He’ll be replaced by ex-American Idol bandleader Rickey Minor, who’ll make his debut on Tonight Monday, June 7.
“It’s a really difficult decision because this has become my second home, as it has been for the band. I love the audience, and the American people really love the show, and it’s been a wonderful experience to be here,” told Jay in April. “After 18 years of playing America into commercials, I’m gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song,” Eubanks said when Leno asked what he planned to do first.
Eubanks, 52, who served as a comic sidekick to Leno as well as a guitarist, has been aboard since Leno took over Tonight in 1992. Eubanks became musical director when Branford Marsalis left in 1995.