When he took over as host of “The Tonight Show” in 2009, Conan O’Brien moved to California. And most of his supporting cast – including Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg, who plays trombone in his band, and occasionally takes part in comedic bits — moved with him. When O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” stint ended, and he launched “Conan” (which also tapes in California) on TBS, LaBamba stayed on the West Coast.
It’s rare that LaBamba does a show with his Hubcaps band — a mainstay of the 1980s Jersey rock club circuit — back in his former home state. But he’ll do so on Aug. 18, outdoors at the Morristown Green, at the free Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival. Joining him will be the boisterous trumpeter Mark “The Loveman” Pender — also a member of O’Brien’s band, and a LaBamba cohort since they were both members of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes — plus saxophonist Tim Cappello, keyboardist Mike Mancini, drummer David Longworth, guitarist Mark Newman and bassist Cliff Schmitt (several of the group members share vocal duty).
Longtime Hubcaps fans will recognize most of the material, said LaBamba in a phone call from California.
“It’s so rare that we play in New Jersey, and the fans really like hearing the older stuff, I feel. Some of it’s revamped. But there are a couple of new things, too,” said LaBamba, who grew up in Philadelphia and also has lived in Belmar, Mendham and West Orange.
“For the last couple of years, out here, I’ve written up an arrangement of ‘California Soul’ (an Ashford & Simpson song that has been covered by Marlena Shaw, The 5th Dimension and many others). So we’ll pull that out, and hopefully people will be up to hearing about California instead of New Jersey, for one song.
“We’re just trying to be fun: It is fun for us, and we hope it comes out that way for everybody else. Hopefully it will be beautiful weather, and we’ll have a great time.”
It has been a quarter of a century since LaBamba and Pender started playing in the band of O’Brien’s first talk show, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” on NBC. It was the Max Weinberg 7 at first; now it’s Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band. The lineup has remained the same, except that James Wormworth, and not Weinberg, is now playing drums.
“Twenty-five years is a hell of a run,” says LaBamba.
During that time, LaBamba has occasionally missed shows to take on outside projects, including Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Band Tour, in 2006, and Springsteen’s Super Bowl appearance (with an augmented version of the E Street Band) in 2009.
“Conan’s been great about it,” says LaBamba. “I can leave when I want, and get a replacement.”
LaBamba & the Hubcaps are also playing at Sony Hall in New York, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. That’s it for now — just two appearances — but LaBamba says that in the future, “We will be playing more frequently, because there’s so much down time on ‘Conan.’ A lot of vacation. That’s the intent: To get out there and do a little bit more.”
Here is the schedule for the Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival. For more information, visit morristownjazzandblues.com. There is no admission charge, and it’s suggested that attendees bring lawn chairs or blankets.
Noon: U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Jazz Ensemble with guest trumpeter Mark Pender
2 p.m.: Bria Skonberg
4 p.m.: LaBamba & The Hubcaps
6 p.m.: The Bernard Allison Group
8 p.m.: Davy Knowles