Letterman retires, orchestra gets fired

AP reports that the backing orchestra for David Letterman’s nightly show will be disbanded when the presenter retires in ten days’ time. Read here. It’s a rough trade.

david letterman orchestra

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  • If the players are any good, they’ll be working again soon.
    They had a good run with this gig – I don’t think it’s that dramatic a story.

  • They all pursue other things already. Had to, I think, because the pay for the TV band was just scale, I’ve read previously.

    • JUST scale? Do you have any idea how much that is for a TV show in NYC? I honestly doubt they’ve had to supplement their CBS income for financial necessity.

    • While they may have received scale pay as a base, their individually negotiated contracts pushed their final earnings into the six figure bracket (per annum of course). They were probably not getting filthy rich, but most probably earned a salary comparable to a tenured player in a top American orchestra.

      • Paul Shaffer is paid quite a bit but… I dunno… I recall an interview with Will Lee, who has been there for the entirety, where he said the money was minimal for the regular band members.

  • “Fired” is a completely inappropriate term. The show is ending, the band’s gig is done, and they’re known that’s coming for a while. Presumably they made a good living and received terrific exposure, and will continue to get work.

  • All had personal contracts with CBS and earned outside income from recordings and appearances. They also share in rerun income from the show. Norman’s headline is somewhat misleading.

  • Oh, come on, this is Paul Schaefer! He’s 65, he’s a star – a great musician who’s had a long, successful career and he’s probably at least a millionaire by now. This band works on a pay scale that could feed orchestra players for years. They’re at the top of the profession and can probably all retire wealthy right about now!

  • As a non-US citizen, I find the formula of the main late-night TV chat shows quite nauseating. Why have a studio band usually playing the most inane of 10 second intros to quite childishly unfunny little cameo skits in front of audiences that have been pre-rehearsed to cheer at every comment, however idiotic? Since each show seems to have some other sort of live popular singer to round off the endless interviews promoting the latest books and movies, what’s the point of a studio band? In Letterman’s case, it seems mostly for Schaefer to provide a foil for Letterman’s most silly jokes. Jimmy Fallon seems to have injected a breath of some sort on new vigour into the formula, but his appeal seems to be mostly a mid-teen audience.

    Before the bashing starts, I do not live in the UK either, and my little experience of their popular chat show efforts left me no more enamoured of the formula!

  • As a non-US citizen, I find the formula of the main late-night TV chat shows quite nauseating. Why have a studio band usually playing the most inane of 10 second intros to quite childishly unfunny little cameo skits in front of audiences that have been pre-rehearsed to cheer at every comment, however idiotic? Since each show seems to have some other sort of live popular singer to round off the endless interviews promoting the latest books and movies, what’s the point of a studio band? In Letterman’s case, it seems mostly for Schaefer to provide a foil for Letterman’s most silly jokes. Jimmy Fallon seems to have injected a breath of some sort on new vigour into the formula, but his appeal seems to be mostly a mid-teen audience.

    Before the bashing starts, I do not live in the UK either, and my little experience of their popular chat show efforts left me no more enamoured of their formula!

  • [redacted] GREAT story (I first read it last week). Shafer and the gang will do just fine. It was a 33 year run for him with uncountable bennies and great connections. he’s the go-to guy for any kind of gig like this in TV any beyond. So are all the band members.

    Who gets a solid gig for thirty three years in THIS business? Plus it’s TV/Entertainment. You could be canned/let go at any time if the ratings drop. “Fired” is a harsh word, “end of run” would be more like it. [redacted]

  • They all have excellent pensions via the US musicians’ union. Most of them do other things, as most musicians do. Plus, the show is taped at 5 pm, so they have had their evenings free to play gigs.

  • For several years, Will Lee has been touring with a show called The Fab Faux, where his beat combo plays the classic late Beatles albums live, as unified works. This is the stuff which was so complex that the Beatles themselves never performed it live.

  • Click bait supreme! Every talk show has has brought his/her band into the show. When Carson retired, Severinson packed his bags, too. This is not a scandal, folks. It’s a changing of the guard. And Paul and company will do just fine.

  • It’s what happened to the Tonight Show (rock) band when Jay Leno retired, and to the previous Tonight Show (big) band when Johnny Carson retired, etc. It’s a steady gig, until it ends.

    I once spent a very pleasant afternoon sipping coffee with José Melis, listening to him reminisce about his times as the bandleader for Jack Paar. I wish I had taken notes.

  • Fallon’s house band (Roots) and Colbert’s house band (Stay Human) are terrible compared to the bands that they replaced. I am a music person who has played for over 50 years. I miss the old bands and old shows, the shows on now don’t come close to the old ones plus the older bands were better.

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