MOST OF US, LATE NIGHT TELEVISION IS WHAT comes on after the news.
“Bones” Malone, it’s a way of life.
is part of the CBS Orchestra with Paul Shaffer, which performs on
the Late Show with David Letterman weeknights on CBS.
he played in the original Saturday Night Live band for 10 years,
which led to a role in the movies The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers
On the Late
Show, Malone serves as the band’s principal arranger. That means
he typically gets a call at 1 p.m. from Shaffer, asking him to write
parts for that night’s segments.
wants to have a fresh show, so we pretty much do everything on a
last-minute basis,” Malone says.
records each day at 5:30 p.m. in the Ed Sullivan Theater in New
York. The band comes in a few hours early to go over the evening’s
lineup and rehearse briefly.
the studio is expensive, so we usually only do full rehearsals if
we’re backing up that night’s musical guest,” he says. “We spend
less than 10 minutes on daily cues (the pieces that accompany bits).”
says that’s business as usual in TV land. And his days in the lab
bands at North Texas prepared him well.
(UNT jazz director from 1959 to 1981) really emphasized that the
first time we played something was the most important, because in
the professional world, you usually only get one chance,” Malone
us to be professional, so he treated us like professionals. That’s
what made us so good,” he says.
was a student, he played lead trombone in the One O’Clock Lab Band,
lead trumpet in the Two O’Clock and other instruments in other bands.
Professionally, Malone now plays 15 instruments.
six on the Late Show, although trombone is his principal instrument.
he should play as many instruments as possible when he performed
with Little Stevie Wonder in college.
saw him out there playing all those instruments, I figured there
was no reason why I couldn’t do the same thing,” he says.
college weekends, Malone would play backup for musicians when they
toured Dallas. In addition to Little Stevie Wonder, he played with
Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and the Temptations.
It was during
his time in Denton that he also started working as a studio musician.
is one of the most in-demand studio musicians in the recording business.
He has recorded with the likes of Miles Davis, Steve Winwood, Lou
Reed, David Sanborn, B.B. King, Diana Ross, Harry Connick Jr., Pink
Floyd, Paul Simon, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Lou Rawls, Bette
Midler, Aretha Franklin, David Byrne and James Brown.
He has toured
with Frank Zappa, Gil Evans, Billy Cobham, the Blues Brothers Band
and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
graduated from UNT with a psychology degree, he went on the road
briefly with Woody Herman’s big band. In January 1970, he settled
in New York City, where he played gigs around town and soon made
a name for himself.
a spot in the Gil Evans Orchestra, which turned into a 15-year association
with the group. It was while playing with Evans that he met Howard
Johnson, who later got the call from NBC to recommend horn players
for Saturday Night Live.
recommended Malone, who became part of the original SNL band and
later served as musical director for the group from 1981 to 1985.
clearly remember the first SNL performance,” Malone says. “We’d
finished rehearsals, and we had our outfits on, and the call came
across the studio, ‘Two minutes to air.’ And I started thinking
about how many millions of people would be watching, and that we’d
be live, and if I missed a note, everyone would hear it. And I got
nervous. Then the ‘10 seconds’ call came, and everything went calm.”
first broadcast, Malone has played close to 2,000 TV performances
between SNL, the Late Show and a few other gigs, including the closing
ceremony for the 1996 Summer Olympics and Bill Clinton’s 50th birthday
audience was easily the largest for which he has ever performed.
More than 87,000 people were in the stadium, and the ceremony was
broadcast live to 142 countries.
He no longer
gets nervous before a show.
the Ed Sullivan Theater only holds 468 people.