Kevin Eubanks announces 'Tonight Show' departure

kevin-eubanks-tonight-320.jpg "The Tonight Show" can start its search for a new bandleader in earnest now.

Kevin Eubanks, who said earlier this year that he would depart, made it official during Monday's (April 12) broadcast. Eubanks told host Jay Leno that his last day on "Tonight" will be May 28.

"After 18 years, I just need a change of pace and see what else is going on," Eubanks told Leno. "But it's a really difficult decision, because this has become my second home, as it has been for the band, and I love the audience and the American people really love the show and it's been a wonderful experience to be here."

He also joked that after "playing America in to commercials" since 1992, when he joined Leno's "Tonight Show" band, "I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song."

"You've been a great friend and really supportive," Leno said to Eubanks. "When those jokes die, I've got to look to you, man."

Eubanks was originally a guitar player for the "Tonight Show" band and became its leader three years later, when Branford Marsalis departed. He followed Leno to his prime-time show earlier this season and then back to "The Tonight Show" after NBC's late-night shakeup. News of his departure from the show first leaked in February.

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'Tonight Show' bandleader Kevin Eubanks quits

Photo credit: NBC