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Jimmy Vivino: Official Biography
Jimmy Vivino serves as the Music Director on the TBS late night show “CONAN.” Vivino has been a consistent element in O’Brien’s late night career, starting with the first episode of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in September 1993. In June of 2008 Vivino moved from New York to Los Angeles and worked as Music Director/guitarist/arranger on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” “The Legally Prohibited from Being on Television Tour” and currently leads “Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band” on “CONAN.”
When not appearing weeknights on TBS, Vivino divides his time between recording sessions and live gigs throughout the country. In addition to his solo work, Vivino plays with the successful Beatles tribute band “The Fab Faux.” Vivino has also recorded and played live with such legends as Johnnie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Levon Helm and Al Kooper. Earlier in his career Jimmy got his start producing playing and arranging for such artists as Phoebe Snow, Laura Nyro, John Sebastian and Donald Fagen.
Prior to landing in television, Vivino worked on Broadway and in film. He arranged and orchestrated the scores for “Leader of the Pack” on Broadway, as well as “Sister Act” and “Sister Act 2” for Disney.
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Vivino currently resides in Burbank, California.
Jimmy Vivino: The Unofficial Fan Biography
Jimmy Vivino was born in 1955 in Paterson, New Jersey. One of his first professional gigs was at the New York World's Fair in 1964 with brothers Floyd and Jerry as a tap dancing act.
Jimmy's earliest memories of music being played at home were of his dad playing Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge records. Jimmy's father was a jazz trumpeter and both his brothers were already playing musical instruments by the age of five. His brother Floyd took up the piano; Jerry began playing clarinet; and Jimmy took up the trumpet.
At age 13, Jimmy was already forming bands and playing high school dances; at the age of 15 he took up the guitar and studied with Joe Cinderella and jazz guitarist Jack Wilkins.
A few years later, Jimmy became interested in the Butterfield Blues Band and The Blues Project. Other artists Jimmy admired around this time (1966-1967) included: The Electric Flag (Michael Bloomfield/Buddy Miles/Nick Gravenites), Muddy Waters, B.B. King and much of Motown's music, including the Temptations, Four Tops and Junior Walker, just to mention a few.
In 1968-1969 Jimmy became interested in Mountain. He loved Leslie West and since then, he's played with West a number of times.
The Band was one of Jimmy's favorites while in high school. And since then, Jimmy has performed countless times with the late Levon Helm. In the 1970s, Jimmy took up keyboards and became good enough to do studio work within a very short period of time.
By the mid-seventies, the Uncle Floyd TV show was very popular and Floyd was selling out the Bottom Line in New York City with Jimmy supplying the music along with brother Jerry, Ed Alstrom and Frank Pagano.
|Uncle Floyd poses with Jimmy and Jerry|
During this time Jimmy was putting together his own bands and doing a lot of studio work. He played with Phoebe Snow, Dion and Frankie Valli among others. He also became very much in demand as a studio musician.
In 1984 he directed an Off-Broadway show entitled "Leader of the Pack" at The Bottom Line. There he met Paul Shaffer who was unable to be the show's full time musical director due to his "Late Night With David Letterman" gig.
In the following years, Jimmy played with such musical luminaries as Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector, Dion and various other artists. He and Paul Shaffer would play a few times a week at local NYC clubs such as Hades and JP's. Jimmy began performing with Al Kooper and met John Sebastian. John had a TV show called "DejaVu" and Jimmy became the leader of the house band.
He began doing more high profile work including working in Hollywood on such movies as "Sister Act", "Sister Act 2", "The First Wives Club", "Heart & Soul", "Night In The City" and "George of the Jungle".
During the mid 80's, Jimmy spent a lot of time at the NY blues club, Tramps, where the Johnny Copeland Band performed. There he met Mike Merritt and James Wormworth, who played in Copeland's group. In 1989 Mike Merritt left Copeland to work with pianist Johnnie Johnson, asking Jimmy and James to join him in putting a band together for Johnnie.
|Jimmy, Michael Merritt, James Wormworth |
and Johnnie Johnson at the keys.
In 1982, Jimmy first met Eddie Brigati of The Rascals and in 1986 Jimmy began touring with Felix Cavilieri and also worked with Wilson Pickett. Another band Jimmy played with (around 1988) was the New York group Reckless Sleepers, with songwriter Jules Shear (MTV Unplugged) and Steve Holly (ex-Wings drummer). Jimmy took part in a project by a New Jersey musician known as "Killer Joe" Delea and it was through Joe Delia that he met Max Weinberg, who played with Jimmy on that project. (Jimmy had already played with Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes by this time.)
Al Kooper asked Jimmy to put together a band for his New York shows at The Bottom Line that evolved into the Rekooperators, originally with Letterman show drummer Anton Fig and Electric Flag bassist Harvey Brooks. Brooks was later replaced by Mike Merrit. Jimmy now plays with Kooper in The New Rekooperators. He also played with John Sebastian's J-Band.
In 1993, Max Weinberg literally ran into Conan O'Brien and asked for an audition for his new show Late Night With Conan O'Brien on NBC. Conan was a huge Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band fan so he felt obligated to audition Max, however, he was convinced Max would never fit into his show's format. Max called Jimmy, who was in San Francisco at the time...Jimmy called Jerry and Jerry said he had an unbelievable keyboard player named Scott Healy.
At the audition, Conan took one look at the guys, heard the music and turned to Jeff Ross, the producer. They had the same exact look on their faces!! They just listened in amazement and Conan said, "Give these guys what they want and sign them up!" It was that easy.........and the Max Weinberg 7 was born on September 13, 1993!
Jimmy has played, produced, arranged and/or orchestrated the music for artists as diverse as Laura Nyro, Phoebe Snow, Cissy Houston, Al Kooper, The New York Rock and Soul Revue with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald, Johnnie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Shemekia Copeland and Joe Pesce.
|Jimmy at a Fab Faux gig|
In 1998, Letterman show bass player Will Lee put together a Beatles tribute band, the Fab Faux, featuring Jimmy, Rich Pagano, Frank Agnello and Jack Petruzelli. The band has received allocades everywhere they play. They tour regularly throughout the country, frequently with brother Jerry in the horn section.
|Jimmy with Will Lee|
Jimmy has also played with Rich Pagano (and bass player John Conte) in the Prisoners of 2nd Avenue, a band dedicated to music that was performed (or should have been performed) at the Fillmore East in the late 1960s.
In June of 2008 Vivino moved from New York to Los Angeles to become Music Director/guitarist/arranger on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” “The Legally Prohibited from Being on Television Tour” and currently leads Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band on “CONAN.”
Since that time he has continued to appear regularly as a leader and/or member of a variety of bands and as a valued guest performer for many groups. In addition to his Conan show duties, Jimmy performs live over 50 nights per year. In 2012, he has appeared with the Prisoners of 2nd Avenue, Al Kooper, Felix Cabrera, Rick Reed, James Wormworth, Scott Healy, the Fab Faux, at a Paul Butterfield tribute with Paul's son Gabriel, the Vivino Brothers, the New Rekooperators, John Sebastian, Garth Hudson, Jim Weider, Johnny Rivers, Barry Goldberg and with Jimmy Vivino and the Black Italians.