As the November 8 premiere date of Conan O’Brien’s return to late-night TV on TBS approaches, word comes that his erstwhile bandleader Max Weinberg will no longer be drumming at the former ‘Tonight Show’ host’s side.
A statement released today announced his departure as a mutual agreement. “Making music with Jimmy Vivino, Mark Pender, La Bamba, Jerry Vivino, Scott Healey, Mike Merritt, and percussionist James Wormsworth enabled me to become a better musician and bandleader,” Weinberg said. “I thank them for their first rate work on the bandstand. I wish Conan and his show the best and I do look forward to dropping by.”
“Max has been a huge part of my life for the past 17 years and he is an incredible band leader and musician,” O’Brien said. “I hope he can find time to stop by the new show, sit in with the band, and pretend to find my monologue funny.”
A recent interview with Vivino, the man who would always step up to sub for Weinberg whenever he went on tour with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, revealed that he’ll be leading the band on ‘Conan,’ while Weinberg will be off with his own band.
“I’ll be leading the band,” Vivino said, “and James Wormworth will be playing drums now. He played half of the ‘Tonight Shows’ and a good quarter of the ‘Late Night’ shows. The funny thing was, when we got this gig, James was the only one we had to leave behind, you know, because Max got the gig and we didn’t need two drummers. But basically we took the band that was mine and my brother’s, combined with some of the guys from Southside Johnny’s band that Max knew and it worked. It worked great for a long time. Now, we’re staying in L.A. and I’m committed to that now. It feels different than when we went out and tried to continue the New York show, because now we’re disassociated from one network and starting up with a new one. It’s gonna be great.”
As for Weinberg, Vivino says “Max has his big band out there that has been his dream all his life, kind of a Buddy Rich band.”
There were rumors back in April that Weinberg was considering doing the unthinkable – rejoining ‘The Tonight Show’ as the enemy Jay Leno’s bandleader, but he’s denied that as completely false. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever consider working on Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show,’” he said in June. “I saw that rumor, and I don’t know where that started and usually you don’t address rumors one way of the other, but that was never, ever in my mind or action. That was one of the wilder things I read about myself.”
Weinberg has been with O’Brien since the beginning, when The Max Weinberg 7 was the band backing him up when his first ‘Late Night’ show premiered back on September 13, 1993. He’s been a consistent comic foil for O’Brien as well, letting himself be portrayed as a relentlessly perverted sex fiend for laughs. Vivino has been there from the start as well, though, and should be a great replacement.