Bad news for Jersey guys: ‘Conan’ show will stop using house band

COURTESY OF TBS

Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band: From left, Mark Pender, Scott Healy, Jerry Vivino, Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg, James Wormworth, Mike Merritt and Jimmy Vivino.

In May, it was announced that the TBS talk show “Conan” will switch from an hour-long to a half-hour format in 2019. And on Oct. 4, Conan O’Brien announced, on the air, that the show’s house band, Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band, will not be used in the new format.

Six of the band members — including Jersey guys Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg on trombone and Mark Pender on trumpet (both formerly of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes), guitarist Vivino and his brother, saxophonist Jerry Vivino — came together with drummer Max Weinberg as the Max Weinberg 7 when “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” debuted on NBC in 1993. They added percussionist James Wormworth and became Max Weinberg & The Tonight Show Band for NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” in 2009. But when O’Brien moved to TBS in 2010, Weinberg left and was replaced by Wormworth, and they morphed into Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band.

After the Oct. 4 show, “Conan” went on hiatus, but it will return in January. During the hiatus, O’Brien will go on a “Conan and Friends” comedy tour that stops at The Borgata in Atlantic City, Nov. 3.

Here’s what O’Brien said during the Oct. 4 show. And below that is a video of his speech, and the band’s subsequent performance of the blues standard, “Killing Floor.”

“As I said earlier tonight, there are many, many changes coming up that I’m very excited about. But to be really honest, and very frank, there is one change on the horizon that makes me quite sad. In January, when our show transitions to a new half-hour format, our band will not be with us. And since we began this journey, 25 years ago, my band has been a daily source of joy in my life. These remarkable musicians have given their talent, energy, enthusiasm and incredible showmanship for over 4,000 hours.

“These guys played at my wedding, which was in Seattle in January, and no one goes to Seattle in January. And they came and they blew the roof off that place. And they have been with me through all the incredible highs and lows of ‘Late Night,’ ‘The Tonight Show,’ and these last eight years at TBS. At the most perilous moment of my career, when I was suddenly without a show and feeling pretty alone, this band came with me on a nationwide tour that, to this day, is one of the highlights of my professional life. In city after city, they did then what they’ve always done, what they did tonight. They melted the audience before I even set foot on the stage. And you don’t see that at home. But they come out long before the cameras are on Andy (Richter) or I, and they absolutely just bring the roof down, and it sets up the show.

“They are remarkable musicians, and are even better people. There is no better testament to their generosity of spirit than the fact that every single day of rehearsal, they have generously let me play guitar with them, and endured my torturously slow progress. I have no idea if I’m a better comedian now than I was in 1993. But thanks to these guys, I’m definitely a better rhythm guitarist. Which is something.

“I take this stuff seriously. I’m a student of late night television. I’ve looked at all the shows, going back to the 1950s. And I can say this with confidence: I’ve been graced with the most versatile, loyal and joyously effervescent band in the history of television. To put it very simply, I love these guys. So tonight, on our last hour-long show, I’m putting the spotlight where it belongs, on Jimmy Vivino & the Basic Cable Band. Gentlemen, I want to thank you for a quarter century of friendship, laughter and the best music I will know in this life.”

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