Kevin Eubanks Announces "Tonight Show" Departure

"After 18 years of playing America in to commercials, I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song"

By Caitlin Millat
|  Monday, Apr 12, 2010  |  Updated 10:41 PM PDT
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Leno's back -- but Eubanks is saying good-bye.

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Leno's back -- but Eubanks is saying good-bye.

Kevin Eubanks, the longtime bandleader on "The Tonight Show," announced his departure from the late-night show during its taping Monday night, telling newly re-crowned host Jay Leno he'd move on to a new change of pace.

Eubanks called NBC's "Tonight Show" his "home" and said it had been a "wonderful experience" working on the program during his near-two decades on the air with the network.

He told Leno he was ready to switch gears in his career, but did not specify what his next project would be or whether he would continue at all with NBC or on-air.

"After 18 years of playing America in to commercials, I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song," Eubanks said.

The bandleader, 52, joined NBC when Leno did, back in 1992 when the comedian took over "The Tonight Show."

Eubanks, a guitarist and often a comic foil to Leno, took over musical director duties in 1995 when Branford Marsalis left the show.

Rumors swirled in February that Eubanks would leave the show to pursue touring and recording outside of "Tonight," but nothing was confirmed.

Eubanks' final day on "Tonight" is May 28.

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