The news that Letterman will be leaving CBS Late Show sometime in the next year came as a surprise to no one- and even less so that Shaffer will be coming with him.
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It’s been in the air for a while that talk show host David Letterman is ready to end his more than 10 year stint as host of CBS’s Late Show. During that time the show has appeared on America’s TV screens more than 4000 times, and in each and every time the musical accompaniment has come from his friend and almost inseparable companion Paul Shaffer.
In fact the association goes back to 1982, when Letterman appointed Shaffer as his musical director when he first signed up to host the “Late Night show with David Letterman” on NBC.
Interviewed a number of years ago about his long-term relationship with Letterman Shaffer stated that they were both aware of the fact that one day show will be over, but as long as the show goes on, he will be there for as long as Dave wants him.
David Letterman finally announced before last weekend, as you would expect, before the live studio audience that he would be retiring and that he will be taking Paul Shaffer with him. In fact, Letterman went as far as adding that after more than thirty years together, that not only had he had no fears for Shaffer’s future, but went on to add, tongue in cheek, that there was a very strong chance the pair “might even get married”.
Speculation regarding Letterman’s impending departure from the small screen has been growing for some time after he broke the record previously held by Johnny Carson as the longest-running host in late-night TV history, taking in the time he spent with NBC on Late Night.
Paul Shaffer was born and raised in Ontario, Canada.
A gifted pianist as a child, Pa began to earn some pocket money performing with bands around the city of Toronto, later becoming a full-time accompanist to jazz guitarist Tisziji Muñoz while studying for his B.A. Degree in Sociology at the University of Toronto.
After graduating, Shaffer began his career as a musical director for the first time in the Toronto production of Godspell. In the early seventies, Paul moved to New York, eventually becoming a member of the house band on NBC’s popular Saturday Night Live (SNL) remaining with them almost consecutively for five years between 1975 to 1980. As well as his gift is a pianist Shaffer was also discovered to be no mean comedian, beginning to become a regular feature in some of the shows best-known sketches, particularly as the pianist backing up Bill Murray in the Nick the Lounge Singer sketches.
In 1982, Paul Shaffer began his long association with David Letterman, as his musical director as well as leader of “The World’s Most Dangerous Band” during his Late Night with David Letterman run on NBC, which continued until 1993. When Letterman signed for the Late Show with David Letterman in 1993, Shaffer went with him even went as far as guest hosting the show on the very few occasions when Letterman was unavailable.
Apart from his more than thirty years’ association with David Letterman, Shaffer has also shown his tremendous consistency by selling has as both producer and musical director and producer for the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since it was first conceived in 1986, as well as being handed the honor of musical and director and producer of the closing ceremony of 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia.