EXCLUSIVE: Does Max Weinberg Want to Be Jay Leno's New Bandleader?

After the Late Night Wars toppled Conan O'Brien from The Tonight Show and reinstalled Jay Leno in his place, it seemed as though the battle lines had been drawn: on one side, there was Team Coco, on the other, Team Leno, and never the twain should meet. That's what makes the news we're about to reveal all the more surprising.

Sources tell Movieline that Conan O'Brien's longtime bandleader Max Weinberg recently made overtures to Leno about joining the new Tonight Show as Leno's bandleader. He'd be replacing Kevin Eubanks, who announced in February that he had plans to leave the show.

It's a post that Weinberg has long coveted, though he only held it briefly during O'Brien's truncated tenure. "I think one of the biggest thrills in my life was seeing my name in the same sentence as Doc Severinsen, who, in my view, is the gold standard for Tonight Show bandleaders," Weinberg told Inside Jersey last August after assuming the gig. "There's never been anyone who did it quite near the class and the brilliance of Doc Severinsen in the original Tonight Show Band. I used to think when I was a kid what a great job that must be -- you know, same place, every time, everyday. Lo and behold, here I am 40 years later, doing it. That sounds deep, deep, deep, deep, deeply satisfying to me."

In some ways, the news comes as a shock: even entering into discussions with Leno would mark Weinberg as a high-profile defector from the Conan camp, and could spark another round of backlash against Leno just as he's settling into the Tonight Show.

Still, we hear that despite his long association with O'Brien, Weinberg was less than beloved by staffers. When O'Brien's show was still located in New York, Weinberg would send interns to do gardening work at his house on the New Jersey shore, and would involve staffers in his pay disputes with the network -- at one point, even enlisting an intern to tabulate every minute of screen time Weinberg had racked up over two years in an argument for a salary raise. Though several members of Weinberg's band will be joining O'Brien during his live summer tour, Weinberg himself is conspicuously absent from the list.

When asked to address the matter, an NBC spokeswoman said only, "We are not commenting." Reps for Leno and Weinberg have yet to get back to us.



  • Furious D says:

    Max Weinberg, TV's Benedict Arnold.
    (Now folks are going to look up Benedict Arnold at Wikipedia)
    But then again who am I to judge, a man's got bills to pay.
    Oh, wait, I'm an internet commenter, it's my job to judge EVERYTHING!

  • Marty says:

    Max Weinberg is waaaay overated. He is totally boring, and adds nothing to the show. He has no personality whatsoever. He needs to be put in his place, and let go.

  • nosmoking says:

    Perhaps Max ought to bone up on his "Tonight Show" history (even though he was only three when it debuted). The first host was Steve Allen (1954) and the house band was lead by Lyle "Skitch" Henderson.

  • orly says:

    I don't see anywhere in there where it says Doc was the first band leader. Fail.

  • blake lively says:

    I dont see how this is in any way proven. Just cos Weinberg gave a quote saying how he loved working where Severeson worked doesn't mean he wants to work at Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Isnt he just simply expressing his love for briefly working at the Tonight Show?

  • Raychel says:

    @Blake I agree and the quote they used from him was from June or July... right after the show went on the air! I hope its not true for Conan's sake... just cuz staffers Supposedly didn't like him doesn't mean Conan didn't. He has been with Conan since day 1 and if they didn't want him on the show they wouldn't have worked so hard to get him to move to LA last year... He's not going on tour but who's to say thats just because he wants to be home with his family? He tours with Springsteen all the time and when he finally gets a chance to stay in one place the show goes on tour... IDK just throwin out ideas...

  • orin says:

    Well, if this is true, its a dick move, and of course, the Jay Leno show is where you go for dick moves.

  • Artie Lange says:

    In absolutely no way can this be true. It's not like movieline or some anonymous 'staffers' are terribly reputable sources. If motions have been made it's probably purely from Leno's side. Sounds like the unthought move to get Stuttering John cos somehow Stern fans would love seeing Melendez as Jay's announcer. Jay probably really stupidly thinks this will make some Conan fans turn onto him.

  • Russ Weakland says:

    Considering this being an Exclusive, it was when I made it an Exclusive a month ago.

  • Greg says:

    "There’s never been anyone who did it quite near the class and the brilliance of Doc Severinsen in the original Tonight Show Band"
    Original seems to imply first to me. Way to skim.

  • Loic says:

    Max Weinberg should go for it
    He belongs on a stage, no reason for him to stagnate in between Springsteen Tours.
    I mean its not like he got a $40 million severance ala Conan.

  • david says:

    you the blake lively thats on the cw show? i dont know the name of the show becuase you fucking suck. the same blake lively that blew on SNL? just shut up bitch.

  • Art Posh says:

    His delivery was as wooden as the table he brought nothing to. No loss.

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  • Paul Johns says:

    Obrien is an idiot . It must have been painful showing up and playing on his show every night . Go get em Max .

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