Jay Leno returns to “The Tonight Show” next month, though, some of his on-air support team will be replaced. NBC is in discussions with longtime Leno bandleader Kevin Eubanks about his future on “Tonight.” The guitar player who’s been with Leno for 17 years will still serve as bandleader on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” when it returns on March 1. But he’ll likely leave 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 leaves of absence, has not yet been worked out. 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. Insiders also said that former “Tonight Show” announcer John Melendez won’t be returning to that gig.
He took a job as a behind-the-scenes writer on “The Jay Leno Show” after Leno left latenight. Melendez replaced Edd Hall as the “Tonight Show” announcer in 2004. But “The Jay Leno Show” went with an unseen, generic announcer instead. Leno and executive producer Debbie Vickers are still considering 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.