Former 'Tonight Show' bandleader Kevin Eubanks probably isn't the first guitarist that comes to mind when people think of screaming electric leads, but now that he's no longer backing up Jay Leno, he has more time to indulge all aspects of his musical personality -- and it's more wide-ranging than you might assume.

Eubanks delved into his background, as well as the impetus behind his new album 'The Messenger,' during an in-depth new interview with Popdose -- starting with the revelation that he's best friends with Crazy Horse guitarist Frank 'Poncho' Sampedro. It might sound like an odd combination, but before he was known as a jazz player, Eubanks grew up listening to classic rock.

"I started playing guitar with James Brown, Kool & the Gang, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago [and] Terry Kath," explained Eubanks, calling Kath "one of my all-time favorite" guitarists. "When I started playing guitar, he was my favorite," he recalled. "I loved his tone, the rawness and grungy tone that I was chasing forever. Wishbone Ash, even, and Todd Rundgren and all of that, Isley Brothers."

Calling his new LP "something that brings me back home a little bit to my Philadelphia roots," Eubanks discussed his decision to cover Jeff Beck's 'Led Boots,' saying he told the band to "anchor it down but feel free and we’ll all follow each other and I’ll use rhythm guitars to keep the groove going, so don’t worry about having to lock it down like that all of the way through. I’ll keep the wah-wah or percussion thing behind it to be a little bit different and we’ll just jam. And when we’re really feeling it, the message will be in the spirit of it -- moreso in the I don’t want to do the screaming guitar solo thing. If I want to hear that, I’ll put Jeff on."

Despite his apparent confidence when it comes to rearranging a hero's classic cut, Eubanks demurred when asked if he'd send his version to Beck. "No. I won’t do that," he insisted. "I wouldn’t be that presumptuous to do that really. And it’s so completely different from his version. But I’m a big Beck fan. I think just doing it, everybody can appreciate that."

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