You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ making changes

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.

More Scene

  • Charlize Theron speaks at the GEANCO

    Charlize Theron Talks 'White Privilege,' Growing Up During Apartheid in South Africa

    Charlize Theron, during an onstage discussion with her “Gringo” costar David Oyelowo about philanthropy at Thursday’s annual fundraiser for Nigerian children’s educational and health program GEANCO, said she was a beneficiary of “white privilege” while growing up in Apartheid-torn South Africa. “I obviously am a white person who benefited from my white privilege,” Theron said [...]

  • Lyliana Wray, Sam Ashe Arnold, Miya

    ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ Revival Team on Living Up to the Series’ Legacy

    The 2019 revival of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” centers around the Carnival of Doom, a place that star Jeremy Ray Taylor (“It Chapter Two”) describes as “beautiful on the outside, but…in the middle of it, there are definitely dark secrets. Variety caught up with the young star during a carnival-themed celebration at Row DTLA [...]

  • Charlize Theron'The Addams Family' film premiere,

    Charlize Theron Speaks Immigration, Diversity in ‘The Addams Family’

    They’re creepy, they’re kooky, and they’re an allegory for immigration in America.  Charlize Theron discussed the changing face of the nuclear family and her animated film, “The Addams Family,” with Variety at the movie’s recent premiere at the Century City Mall in Los Angeles. “When you think of [the Addams] being around since the sixties, [...]

  • Emma Stone attends the Los Angeles

    Emma Stone Talks 'Cruella' Transformation, New 'Zombieland' Sequel

    Despite inevitable comparisons to Glenn Close’s iconic turn as Cruella de Vil in 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” Emma Stone teased that her take on the infamous villain in the upcoming “Cruella” movie will be very distinctive. “It comes long before her story,” Stone told Variety at the premiere of “Zombieland: Double Tap” at the Regency Village [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the 2019

    Gwyneth Paltrow Honored at amfAR Gala

    Gwyneth Paltrow received one of this year’s courage awards at amfAR’s annual gala on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Paltrow’s longtime friends Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos presented her with the award. “I didn’t prepare anything because I don’t think I really believe in thank you speeches, but I did want to thank amfAR for this,” [...]

  • Variety’s Power of Women Gift Bag

    Variety’s Power of Women Gift Bag: Sneak Peek

    While there are only so many cover honorees, everyone will go home a star this Power of Women Los Angeles. Each guest will receive a large Shopping Tote provided by The Little Market, and screen-printed by Homeboy Industries. Item inclusion ranges from product in entertainment, beauty, health, fashion, and more. Missed your chance to attend? [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content