Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg is an American trombonist originating from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the house band on Conan O'Brien's late-night talk shows.
Rosenberg became a trombonist when his junior high instrumental director, Leroy Evans, lent him a trombone to practice with over a summer break. Evans, concerned about a shrinking brass section due to graduating students, told Rosenberg to learn how to play and to come see him in the fall when school resumed. Rosenberg attributes "it all" to Evans. Rosenberg attended George Washington High School in Philadelphia. His senior year in high school, he and the saxophonist in jazz band both made first chair in the Philadelphia All City Jazz band. Rosenberg's early influences included J. J. Johnson, Otis Redding, and Teddy Pendergrass.
After a short-lived first year at the Philadelphia Music Academy, Rosenberg abandoned his scholarship to tour with the band Vicki Allen and the Image. A high school friend and fellow musician Rick Gazda called him with "an offer he couldn't refuse" that brought him from Schenectady, New York to the Stone Pony rock club in Asbury Park. The offer came from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
After joining the Jukes, Rosenberg moved to the Shore area and lived in Belmar, Long Branch, and across from the Stone Pony.
In 1981, a Jukes show at The Savoy, now the Hudson Theatre in New York City, caught the attention of Diana Ross's producer, Nile Rodgers who asked the horn section (known as The Miami Horns) to go on the road with her. After a two-year tour with Ross, Rosenberg returned, only to hit the road with Little Steven's world tour in support of his album Men Without Women.
In the mid-1980s, Rosenberg fine-tuned his own bands, LaBamba and the Hubcaps and LaBamba's Big Band, made up of 13 horns.
Association with Conan O'Brien:
While touring in Europe with Southside Johnny in 1993, Rosenberg got a phone call from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, who had been tapped as the bandleader for Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Rosenberg joined fellow Miami Horns trumpeter Mark Pender on the show's band, The Max Weinberg 7. The band moved over with O'Brien to The Tonight Show in 2009 and became Max Weinberg and The Tonight Show Band. When Conan left as a result of the 2010 Tonight Show conflict, the band followed him again, this time to TBS, where they are Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band.
In addition to playing the trombone, he also performs in skits such as "In the Year 2000." He is also commonly the butt of Conan O'Brien's jokes during his monologues or interviews in which Rosenberg is often implied to be some variety of sexual deviant; Rosenberg responds with chagrin, or a few times, hides his face behind a sheet of music. He also occasionally acts in comedy bits, during or after which O'Brien nearly always ridicules Rosenberg's meager line reading and acting skills.
In 1990, Rosenberg was joined by Ed Manion (baritone sax), Mario Cruz (tenor sax), and Al Chez (trumpet), billed as The Miami Horns, as part of Dave Edmunds All-Star Rock and Roll Revue. The Revue featured Edmunds with Graham Parker, Kim Wilson, and Dion leading the band which also included legendary guitarist Steve Cropper.
Rosenberg and Jon Bon Jovi joined forces for charity events including the Special Olympics' "Very Special Christmas" television special in 1999, hosted by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton at the White House.
On May 3, 2007, Rosenberg performed the national anthem at the Golden State Warriors' playoff game (Game 6) vs. the Dallas Mavericks. With Conan being in San Francisco that week filming his show, LaBamba was invited to perform the Star Spangled Banner at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
He and his big band teamed up with Southside Johnny for the album Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits, released in September 2008. The first two sessions were recorded in Bon Jovi's garage.
In September 2008, Rosenberg brought his band, LaBamba's Big Band, on Late Night with Conan O'Brien to perform what Rosenberg later referred to as "the most outrageous experience ever, more so than the Super Bowl."
On February 1, 2009, Rosenberg performed with Springsteen and the E Street Band during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIII despite suffering a recent foot injury. "There was so much adrenaline that I didn't feel any pain in my foot", he described afterwards.
From an interview by Patrick Jones:
"I had an Afro and a Fu Manchu (moustache) at the time," says Rosenberg. "Everybody from Asbury Park was given a nickname: Jukes (Southside Johnny), The Boss (Springsteen), and Miami (Steven Van Zandt ...). The roadie said, 'We have to come up with a nickname to call this guy. He looks Spanish. How about LaBamba?' I'm Jewish, not Spanish," LaBamba now laughs. "But Bruce got up on the bar there and started shouting, 'Give me an L; give me an A; give me a B.' He christened me, you know. And I kept (the nickname)."
Rosenberg is married with five children.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license