*”Tonight Show” bandleader Kevin Eubanks capped his 18-year run with Jay Leno on Friday’s broadcast with a show that included a highlight reel of comic moments between Leno and Eubanks, and an original song performed by the departing guitarist.
Eubanks has been with “Tonight” ever since Leno took over for host Johnny Carson in 1992. He became musical director when Branford Marsalis left in 1995, then joined Leno last fall for the split-second “Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. before moving back to “Tonight” when Leno reclaimed the slot back from Conan O’Brien in March.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument,” Leno told his comic sidekick during the show. “We’ve had a lot of fun.”
In April, Eubanks announced his plans to depart, but he insisted the recent turmoil had played no part in his decision. He said he was seeking a career change of pace.
Also leaving with Eubanks are the other five members of the Tonight Show Band. They include vocalist and percussionist Vicki Randle, keyboardist Gerry Etkins, bass guitarist Derrick “Dock” Murdock, saxophonist Ralph Moore and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
“We have gone through all this together,” said Eubanks, introducing and thanking them.
Replacing Eubanks will be former “American Idol” music director Rickey Minor, who arrives with his own band on June 7. “The Tonight Show” will air reruns next week.
Below, Eubanks highlight reel and his final “Tonight Show” broadcast in its entirety.