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Kevin Eubanks Leaving The Tonight Show for Good

Hey, does Conan O'Brien need a band leader?

Not that one has anything to do with the other, but Kevin Eubanks coincidentally happened to pick today to announce that he'll be leaving The Tonight Show for good in six weeks.

After completing his usual Monday night "Headlines" bit, Jay Leno told his audience that he had one more headline to get to, "involving our very own Kevin Eubanks."

And the news had nothing to do with stupid criminals or misspelled menus.

"After 18 years, I just need a change of pace and see what else is going on," Eubanks explained. "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."

Eubanks joined the Tonight Show staff in 1992 and became musical director in 1995.

Lamenting the end of their "date nights," when they watch the movies their guests are promoting, Leno replied, "It has been a pleasure. You've been a great friend and really supportive. When those jokes die, I gotta look to you, man."

Eubanks, a jazz artist at heart, said that he thought about what he would do after The Tonight Show "and it wasn't that difficult. 

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

The definitive news of Eubanks' departure comes on the same day Conan O'Brien announced that he would be landing his late-night ship on TBS as a lead-in to George Lopez, starting in November. Interestingly, news of Eubanks' pending departure kicked up around the time NBC was playing musical chairs with its 11:30 p.m. timeslot.

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Once he leaves the Tonight Show, Kevin Eubanks might not be seeing as many Stars at Their Hottest as he used to.

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