Melendez won't return as announcer; Eubanks on the way out?
While Jay Leno returns to “The Tonight Show” next month, his on-air support team is undergoing a change.NBC confirmed on Tuesday that the network is in discussions with longtime Leno bandleader Kevin Eubanks about his future on “Tonight.” Insiders also said that former “Tonight Show” announcer John Melendez — who took a job as a behind-the-scenes writer on “The Jay Leno Show” after Leno left latenight — won’t be returning to that gig. Melendez, once known for his antics as Howard Stern radio sidekick “Stuttering John,” replaced Edd Hall as the “Tonight Show” announcer in 2004. But “The Jay Leno Show” went with an unseen, generic announcer instead. Leno and exec producer Debbie Vickers are still mulling whether to stick with the generic announcer or hire a new personality for the gig. But network sources confirmed that Melendez will remain behind the scenes, as a writer on “Tonight.” As for Eubanks, the guitar player — who’s been with Leno for 17 years — will indeed still serve as bandleader on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” when it returns on March 1. But his departure is likely within the first few months after that date. 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.) In the short run, Eubanks is still working as usual for the show. The band leader recently shot a new series of promos with Leno to advertise their “Tonight Show” return. Leno correspondents making the move back to “The Tonight Show” include Ross “the Intern” Mathews, who has already shot a piece for the show. Also on Tuesday, NBC unveiled the new logo for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” And production designer Brandt Daniels is overseeing “The Jay Leno Show” stage’s revamp. Peacock is also expected to announce Leno’s first-night guests shortly. And an on-air promo campaign for Leno’s “Tonight Show” return will start appearing during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage in the coming days.