Kevin Eubanks Leaves “The Tonight Show” After 18 Years

It was the end of an era in late-night television last night, but the outcome was less tumultuous compared to the recent uproar surrounding Jay Leno and Conan O’ Brien.

Bandleader Kevin Eubanks ended his 18-year association with "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Friday, the Associated Press reported. He had been a part of the NBC late-night program since 1992 and became musical director three years later succeeding Branford Marsalis.

"I don't think we've ever had an argument," Leno said as he bid adieu to his now-former sidekick on Friday's program. "We've had a lot of fun."

On the show, highlights of Leno and Eubanks over the years were shown in a retrospective clip, followed by a performance by Eubanks.

Also leaving with Eubanks were members of the “Tonight Show” band: keyboardist Gerry Etkins, saxophonist Ralph Moore, bassist Derrick "Dock" Murdock, vocalist and percussionist Vicki Randle, and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith.

Ricky Minor, a former music director from “American Idol,” and his band will take over the musical reins for “The Tonight Show” June 7.

In April, Eubanks, 52, announced that he was leaving “The Tonight Show” because he wanted a "change of pace" after 18 years.  He claimed that the Leno-O’Brien brouhaha had nothing to do with his decision.

"After 18 years of playing America into commercials, I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song," Eubanks said at the time.

Eubanks was with Leno on the now-cancelled “The Jay Leno Show” and later returned to “The Tonight Show” when Leno took over the late-night program from O’Brien in March.

Despite leaving his high-profile television gig, Eubanks won’t be short of work in the immediate future. He and his band will be performing live throughout the summer starting June 23 at The Baked Potato in West Studio City, Calif.

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